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- Introductory Volumes: 
1. A Liberal Education 
2. The Great Ideas I 
3. The Great Ideas II , 


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9. ARISTOTLE II 

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16. PTOLEMY 
COPERNICUS 

17. PLOTINUS 
18. AUGUSTINE 
19- THOMAS AQUINAS I 
20. THOMAS AQUINAS II 
21. DANTE 
22. CHAUCER 

23. MACHIAVELLI ; 

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24. RABELAIS 
' 25. MONTAIGNE 


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27. SHAKESPEARE II 









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Letter concerning toleration. 




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GREAT BOOKS 
OF THE WESTERN WORLD 

ROBERT MAYNARD HUTCHINS, EDITOR IN CHIEF 



LOCKE 

BERKELEY 

HUME 



MORTIMER J. ADLER, Associate Editor 

Members of the Advisory Board: STRINGFELLOW BARR, SCOTT BUCHANAN, JOHN ERSKHSTE, 

CLARENCE H. FAUST, ALEXANDER MEKLEJOHN, JOSEPH J. SCHWAB, MARK VAN DOREN, 

Editorial Consultants: A, R B. CLARK, F. L. LUCAS, WALTER MURDOCH. 

WALLACE BROCKWAY, Executive Editor 



A Letter Concerning Toleration^ by John Locke, edited by Charles L. Sherman, 

is reprinted by arrangement with D. APPLETON-CENTURY COMPANY, ING. 

Copyright, 1937, by D. APPLETON-CENTURY COMPANY, INC. 

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding^ by John Locke, is reprinted from 
the edition collated and annotated by Alexander Campbell Fraser and published 

t>y OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS 

An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, by David Hume, edited by 
L. A. Selby-Bigge, is reprinted by arrangement with OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS 



COPYRIGHT IN THE UNITED STATES OP AMERICA, 1952, 

BY ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRTTANNICA, INC. 



UNDER INTERNATIONAL COGHT UNION BY 
BRITANNICA, B*C. AlX RIGHTS RESERVED UNDER PAN AMERICAN 

INC. 



GENERAL CONTENTS 



A LETTER CONCERNING TOLERATION, Page i 

CONCERNING CIVIL GOVERNMENT, 
SECOND ESSAY, Page 25 

AN ESSAY 

CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING, Page 85 
By JOHN LOCKE 



THE PRINCIPLES OF HUMAN KNOWLEDGE, Page 403 
By GEORGE BERKELEY 



AN ENQUIRY 

CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING, Page 451 
By DAVID HUME 



JOHN LOCKE 
A LETTER CONCERNING TOLERATION 

Translated by WILLIAM POPPLE 

CONCERNING CIVIL GOVERNMENT 
SECOND ESSAY 

AN ESSAY CONCERNING HUMAN 
UNDERSTANDING 



BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 
JOHN LOCKE, 1632-1704 



LOCKE was born August 29, 1632, the oldest 
child of a respectable Somersetshire family of 
Puritan sympathies. His father was a lawyer, 
small landowner, and captain of a volunteer 
regiment in the parliamentary army. Locke's 
early education was carefully tended by his 
father at their rural home at Beluton, near Bris- 
tol; and it was probably through the influence 
of the elder Locke's parliamentary patrons that 
he obtained a place at Westminster School, 
where he remained from his fourteenth to his 
twentieth year. In 1652 he won a scholarship to 
Christ Church College, Oxford. 

At the tune Locke entered Oxford, Cromwell 
was chancellor, and the Puritans were in con- 
trol. The curriculum, however, was still the tra- 
ditional one of grammar, rhetoric, logic, geom- 
etry, and moral philosophy. Locke later declared 
that he "had lost a great deal of time at the 
commencement of his studies, because the only 
philosophy then known at Oxford was the Peri- 
patetic," and his friend, Lady Masham, re- 
ported that he often told her that "he had so 
small satisfaction there from his studies . . . that 
this discouragement kept him from being any 
very hard student." Nevertheless, after taking 
his bachelor's degree in 1656, he remained at 
Oxford to obtain his master's degree and then 
became successively lecturer in Greek, reader in 
rhetoric, and finally in 1664 censor of moral 
philosophy. Butsuchactivitydidnotfully occupy 
his attention. The reading of Descartes, which 
gave him "a relish of philosophical things," and 
the founding at Oxford of the Royal Society led 
him to begin experimenting in chemistry and 
meteorology. Soon afterwards he began the 
study of medicine and by 1666 he was engaged 
in occasional practice, although he never took a 
doctor's degree. 

The common-place books kept between his 
twenty-eighth and thirty-fourth year show that 
it was also at Oxford that Locke became inter- 
ested in political questions. His citations are 
concerned with such topics as the constitution 
of society, the relation of church and state, and 
the importance of religious toleration. In 1665 
he interrupted his medical studies to serve on a 



diplomatic mission to Brandenburg. On his re- 
turn he considered going to Spain as secretary 
of the embassy, although he eventually declined 
the offer. In 1667 he abandoned the academic 
life for the political world of London and "the 
society of great wits and ambitious politicians." 
This action came about largely as a result of an 
accidental meeting and ensuing friendship with 
Lord Ashley, Chancellor of the Exchequer, who 
persuaded Locke to enter his household as per- 
sonal physician, general adviser, and confidant. 
For the next sixteen years Locke served his pa- 
tron in various capacities. He saved Ashley's 
life by operating on an "imposthume in the 
breast," prescribed for the servants, helped to 
arrange the marriage of the eldest son, and 
drew up the "Fundamental Constitutions for 
the Government of Carolina," a colony of which 
Ashley was a "lord protector." When Ashley 
was made first Earl of Shaftesbury and Lord 
Chancellor in 1672, Locke became "secretary 
of presentations" and secretary of the council of 
trade. 

Locke's many practical duties in London did 
not prevent him from pursuing his scientific and 
philosophical interests. His medical studies pro- 
vided the basis for a close friendship with Syden- 
harj and Locke sometimes accompanied him 
on his professional calls. He kept up his early 
interest in chemistry with his friend, Robert 
Boyle, and upon the latter^ death, edited his 
General History of the Air. He frequently held in- 
formal gatherings for the discussion of questions 
in science and theology. On one such occasion, 
when meeting with "five or six friends," a ques- 
tion arose concerning the "limits of human un- 
derstanding." Locke undertook to provide an 
answer, and what was thus "begun by chance, 
was continued by entreaty, written by incoher- 
ent parcels, after long intervals of neglect re- 
sumed again as humour and occasions per- 
mitted," and published after almost twenty 
years as An Essay Concerning Human Understand- 
ing. 

Locke's fortunes were closely linked with those 
of Shaftesbury, and when the Earl fell from 
power in 1675, Locke withdrew from public 



life. He went to France, where he remained four 
years, during which he sought to restore his 
health, which had never been good, and to work 
upon his Essay. At Montpellier he was the neigh- 
bor of the Earl of Pembroke, later also the pa- 
tron of Berkeley, to whom he dedicated his work. 
When Shaftesbury again arose to power in 1679, 
Locke returned to England and resumed his 
former activities. Although he seems to have 
played little part in Shaftesbury's plotting with 
Monmouth against the King which led to the 
Earl's exile and death, he fell under royal suspi- 
cion, and in 1683 he found it safer to seek refuge 
in Holland. Fearing arrest at the insistence of 
the English Government, he lived at first in 
Amsterdam under the assumed name of Dr. 
Van der Linden. He rapidly formed congenial 
associations, especially among the Remonstrants, 
with whom Spinoza had also lived, and settled 
down to complete the Essay. In 1687 he made 
his first appearance as an author by publishing 
an abstract of it in the Biblioth&que Universelle of 
his friend, Le Clerc. It seems likely that he was 
involved to some extent in planning the Rev- 
olution of 1688. He had friends among the 
English refugees, he was known to William of 
Orange, and he returned to England in 1689 in 
the same ship which carried William's wife, 
Princess Mary. 

Although Locke was offered several responsi- 
ble positions in the new regime, he preferred to 
devote himself to his writings and accepted only 
the comparatively light task of commissioner 
of appeals. Within four years he completed 
his most important works. The Letter Concern- 
ing Toleration, which had been written and 
published in Latin in Holland, appeared in 



BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 

English the year of his return. In 1690 the Two 
Treatises on Civil Government and the Essay ap- 
peared, and three years later the Thoughts on 
Education. 

Prompted by ill-health and dissatisfaction 
with the course of public affairs, Locke retired 
in 1691 to Gates Manor in Essex, the home of 
Lady Masham, daughter of Ralph Cudworth, 
the Cambridge Platonist. He continued to work 
at the Essay and in 1694 published a second 
edition; a third and fourth edition were also 
brought out during his life time. The Essay and 
Letter Concerning Toleration involved him in a long 
series of controversies regarding the religious 
implications of his teaching. The Second and 
Third Letter Concerning Toleration, the pamphlets 
interchanged with Bishop Stillingfleet of Wor- 
cester, and the Reasonableness of Christianity be- 
long to these years, as does the series of letters 
to Isaac Newton. He continued to be occupied 
with political problems and expressed his views 
on currency reform in his Observations on Silver 
Money and Further Considerations on Raising the 
Value of Money. Upon the establishment of a 
commission on trade and plantations, Locke 
reluctantly accepted a post as one of the com- 
missioners. This office absorbed all the time his 
health permitted him to spend in London from 
1696 to 1700, when constant illness compelled 
his resignation. 

Locke's last years were spent quietly in retire- 
ment at Gates. He occupied himself with bib- 
lical studies and wrote a commentary on St. 
Paul's Epistles. He was in the midst of writing a 
Fourth Letter on Toleration when he died on Octo- 
ber 28, 1704. He was buried near Gates by the 
parish church of High Laver. 



A LETTER 
CONCERNING TOLERATION 



HONOURED SIR, 

Since you are pleased to inquire what are my 
thoughts about the mutual toleration of Chris- 
tians in their different professions of religion, I 
must needs answer you freely that I esteem that 
toleration to be the chief characteristic mark of 
the true Church. For whatsoever some people 
boast of the ^ntiquit^of places and names, or of 
the pomp of their outward worship; others, of 
the reformation of their discipline; all, of the or- 
thodoxy of their faith for everyone is orthodox 
to himself these things, and all others of this na- 
ture, are much rather marks of men striving for 
power and empire over one another than of the 
Church of Christ. Let anyone have never so true 
a claim to all these things, yet if he be destitute 
of charity, meekness, and good-will in general 
towards all mankind, even to those that are not 
Christians, he is certainly yet short of being a true 
Christian himself. "The kings of the Gentiles ex- 
ercise lordship over them," said our Saviour to 
His disciples, "but ye shall not be so." 1 The bus- 
iness of true religion is quite another thing. It is 
not instituted in order to the erecting of an ex- 
ternal pomp, nor to the obtaining df^ecclesiastir 
cal dominion, nor to the exercising of compul- 
sive force, but to the regulating of men's lives, 
according to the rules of virtue and piety. Who- 
soever will list himself under the banner of Christ, 
must, in the first place and above all things, make 
war upon his own lusts and vices. It is in vain 
for any man to usurp the name of Christian, with- 
out holiness of life, purity of manners, benignity 
and meekness of spirit. "Let everyone that nam- 
eth the name of Christ, depart from iniquity." 2 
"Thou, when thou art converted, strengthen thy 
brethren," said our Lord to Peter. 8 It would, in- 
deed, be very hard for one that appears careless 
about his own salvation to persuade me that he 
were extremely concerned for mine. For it is im- 
possible that those should sincerely and heartily 

*Luke 22. 25. 
2 II Tim. a. 19. 
'Luke 22. 32. 



apply themselves to make other people Christi- 
ans, who have not really embraced the Christian 
religion in their own hearts. If the Gospel and 
the apostles may be credited, no man can be a 
Christian without charity and without that faith 
which works, not by force, but by love. Now, I 
appeal to the consciences of those that persecute, 
torment, destroy, and kill other men upon pre- 
tence of religion, whether they do it out of friend- 
ship and kindness towards them or no? And I 
shall then indeed, and not until then, believe 
they do so, when I shall see those fiery zealots 
correcting, in the same manner, their friends and 
familiar acquaintance for the manifest sins they 
commit against the precepts of the Gospel; when 
I shall see them persecute with fire and sword 
the members of their own communion that are 
tainted with enormous vices and without amend- 
ment are in danger of eternal perdition ; and when 
I shall see them thus express their love and de- 
sire of the salvation of their souls by the inflic- 
tion of torments and exercise of all manner of 
cruelties. For if it be out of a principle of char- 
ity, as they pretend, and love to men's souls that 
they deprive them of their estates, maim them 
with corporal punishments, starve and torment 
them in noisome prisons, and in the end even 
take away their lives I say, if all this be done 
merely to make men Christians and procure their 
salvation, why then do they suffer whoredom, 
fraud, malice, and such-like enormities, which 
(according to the apostle) 4 manifestly relish of 
heathenish corruption, to predominate so much 
and abound amongst their flocks and people? 
These, and such-like things, are certainly more 
contrary to the glory of God, to the purity of the 
Church, and to the salvation of souls, than any 
conscientious dissent from ecclesiastical deci- 
sions, or separation from public worship, whilst 
accompanied with innocence of life. Why, then, 
does this burning zeal for God, for the Church, 
and for the salvation of souls burning I say, lit- 
4 Rom. i. ~ 



JOHN LOCKE 



erally, with fire and faggot pass by those moral 
vices and wickednesses, without any chastise- 
ment, which are acknowledged by all men to be 
diametrically opposite to the profession of Chris- 
tianity, and bend all its nerves either to the in- 
troducing of ceremonies, or to the establishment 
of opinions, which for the most part are about 
nice and intricate matters, that exceed the ca- 
pacity of ordinary understandings? Which of the 
parties contending about these things is in the 
right, which of them is guilty of schism or here- 
sy, whether those that domineer ortHose that suf- 
fer, will then at last be manifest when the causes 
of their separation comes to be judged of. He, 
certainly, that follows Christ, embraces His doc- 
trine, and bears His yoke, though he forsake both 
father and mother, separate from the public as- 
semblies and ceremonies of his country, or whom- 
soever or whatsoever else he relinquishes, will 
not then be judged a heretic. 

Now, though the divisions that are amongst 
sects should be allowed to be never so obstruc- 
tive of the salvation of souls; yet, nevertheless, 
adultery, fornication, uncleanliness, lascivious- 
ness, idolatry, and such-like things, cannot be 
denied to be works of the flesh, concerning which 
the apostle has expressly declared that c 'they who 
do them shall not inherit the kingdom of God.* 51 
Whosoever, therefore, issincerely solicitous about 
the kingdom of God and thinks it his duty to en- 
deavour the enlargement of it amongst men, 
ought to apply himself with no less care and in- 
dustry to the rooting out of these immoralities 
than to the extirpation of sects. But if anyone do 
otherwise, and whilst he is cruel and implacable 
towards those that differ from him in opinion, 
he be indulgent to such iniquities and immoral- 
ities as are unbecoming the name of a. Christian, 
let such a one talk never so much of the Church, 
he plainly demonstrates by his actions that it is 
another kingdom he aims at and not the ad- 
vancement of the kingdom of God. 

That any man should think fit to cause an- 
other man whose salvation he heartily desires 
to expire in torments, and that even in an un- 
converted state, would, I confess, seem very 
strange to me, and I think, to any other also. But 
nobody, surely, will ever believe that such a car- 
riage can proceed from charity, love, or good- 
will If Anyone maintain that men ought to be 
cosB|>eSe<j by fire and sword to profess certain 
doctrines, aod coaqtfbrm to this or that exterior 
WM^p^i^ll^mt .any regard had unto their mo- 
rals; if .apfOBS endeavour to co-aver^ those that 
are OTOEK*^ the, l|i|^y; forcing %m tp 



profess things that they do not believe and allow- 
ing them to practise things that the Gospel does 
not permit, it cannot be doubted indeed but such 
a one is desirous to have a numerous assembly 
joined in the same profession with himself; but 
that he principally intends by those means to 
compose a truly Christian Church is altogether 
incredible. It is not, therefore, to be wondered 
at if those who do not really contend for the ad- 
vancement of the true religion, and of the Church 
of Christ, make use of arms that do not belong 
to the Christian warfare. If, like the Captain of 
our salvation, they sincerely desired the good of 
souls, they would tread in the steps and follow 
the perfect example of that Prince of Peace, who 
sent out His soldiers to the subduing of nations, 
and gathering them into His Church, not armed 
with the sword, or other instruments of force, but 
prepared with the Gospel of peace and with the 
exemplary holiness of their conversation. This 
was His method. Though if infidels were to be 
converted by force, if those that are either blind 
or obstinate were to be drawn off from their er- 
rors by armed soldiers, we know very well that 
it was much more easy for Him to do it with ar- 
mies of heavenly legions than for any son of the 
Church, how potent soever, with all his dragoons. 
The toleration of those that differ from others 
in matters of religion is so agreeable to the Gos- 
pel of Jesus Christ, and to the genuine reason of 
mankind, that it seems monstrous for men to be 
so blind as not to perceive the necessity and ad- 
vantage of it in so clear a light. I will not here 
tax the pride and ambition of some, the passion 
and uncharitable zeal of others. These are faults 
from which human affairs can perhaps scarce 
ever be perfectly freed; but yet such as nobody 
will bear the plain imputation of, without cov- 
ering them with some specious colour; and so 
pretend to commendation, whilst they are car- 
ried away by their own irregular passions. But, 
however, that some may not colour their spirit 
of persecution and unchristian cruelty with a pre- 
tence of care of the public weal and observation 
of the laws; and that others* under pretence of 
religion, may not seek impunity for their liber- 
tinism and licentiousness; in a word, that none 
may impose either upon himself or others, by the 
pretences of loyalty and obedience to the prince, 
or of tenderness and sincerity in the worship of 
God; I esteem it above all things necessary to 
distinguish exactly the business of civil govern- 
ment from that of religion and to settle the just 
bounds that lie between the one arid the other. 
If this be not done, there can be no end put to 
the controversies that will be always arising be- 



A LETTER CONCERNING TOLERATION 



tween those that have, or at least pretend to have, 
on the one side, a concernment for the interest 
of men's souls, and, on the other side, a care of 
the commonwealth. 

The commonwealth seems to me to be a so- 
ciety of men constituted only for the procuring, 
preserving, and advancing their own civil in- 
terests. 

Civil interests I call life, liberty, health, and in- 
dolency of body; and the possession of outward 
things, such as money, lands, houses, furniture, 
and the like. 

It is the duty of the civil magistrate, by the im- 
partial execution of equal laws, to secure unto 
all the people in general and to every one of his 
subjects in particular the just possession of these 
things belonging to this life. If anyone presume 
to violate the laws of public justice and equity, 
established for the preservation of those things, 
his presumption is to be checked by the fear of 
punishment, consisting of the deprivation or di- 
minution of those civil interests, or goods, which 
otherwise he might and ought to enjoy. But see- 
ing no man does willingly suffer himself to be 
punished by the deprivation of any part of his 
goods, and much less of his liberty or life, there- 
fore, is the magistrate armed with the force and 
strength of all his subjects, in order to the pun- 
ishment of those that violate any other man's 
rights. 

Now that the whole jurisdiction of the magis- 
trate reaches only to these civil concernments, 
and that all civil power, right and dominion, is 
bounded and confined to die only care of pro- 
moting these things; and that it neither can nor 
ought in any manner to be extended to the sal- 
vation of souls, these following considerations 
seem unto me abundantly to demonstrate. 

First, because the care of souls is not com- 
mitted to the civil magistrate, any more than to 
other men. It is not committed unto him, I say, 
by God; because it appears not that God has 
ever given any such authority to one man over 
another as to compel anyone to his religion. Nor 
can any such power be vested in the magistrate 
by the consent of the people, because no man 
can so far abandon the care of his own salvation 
as blindly to leave to the choice of any other, 
whether prince or subject, to prescribe to him 
what faith or worship he shall embrace. For no 
man can, if he would, conform his faith to the 
dictates of another v 



rejigjon consist in the inward and fuUjDeim^jon 

. of Jhe mfod^ and faith is not faith without be- 

Ueying. \piateveprofession we jn^e^Jowhat- 

eveFSjtward worship we^conform, if we are not 



fully: satisfied in our own mind that the one is 
true and the other well pleasing unto God, such 
_ profession and such practice, far from being any 
furtherance, are indeed great obstacles to our 
salvation. For in this manner, instead of expiat- 
ing other sins by the exercise of religion, I say, 
in offering thus unto God Almighty such a wor- 
ship as we esteem to be displeasing unto Him, 
we add unto the number of our other sins those 
also of hypocrisy and contempt of His Divine 
Majesty. 

In the second place, the care of souls cannot 
belong to the civil magistrate, because his power 
consists only in outward force; but true and sav- 
ing religion consists in the inward persuasion of 
the mind, without which nothing can be accept- 
able to God. And such is the nature of the un- 
derstanding, that it cannot be compelled to the 
belief of anything by outward force. Confisca- 
tion of estate, imprisonment, torments, nothing 
of that nature can have any such efficacy as to 
make men change the inward judgement that 
they have framed of things. 

It may indeed be alleged that the magistrate 
may make use of arguments, and, thereby; draw 
the heterodox into die way of truth, and procure 
their salvation. I grant it; but this is common to 
him with other men. In teaching, instructing, 
and redressing the erroneous by reason, he may 
certainly do what becomes any good man to do. 
Magistracy does not oblige him to put off either 
humanity or Christianity; but it is one thing to 
persuade, another to command; one thing to 
press with arguments, another with penalties. 
This civil power alone has a right to do; to the 
other, goodwill is authority enough. Every man 
has commission to admonish, exhort, convince 
another of error, and, by reasoning, to draw him 
into truth; but to give laws, receive obedience, 
and compel with the sword, belongs to none but 
the magistrate. And, upon this ground, I affirm 
that the magistrate's power extends not to the 
establishing of any articles of faith, or forms of 
worship, by the force of his laws. For laws are of 
no force at all without penalties, and penalties 
in this case are absolutely impertinent, because 
they are not proper to convince the mind. Nei- 
ther the profession of any articles of faith, nor 
the conformity to any outward form of worship 
(as has been already said), can be available to 
the salvation of souls, unless the truth of the one 
and the acceptableness of the other unto God be 
thoroughly believed by those that so profess and 
practise. But penalties are no way capable to 
produce such belief. It is only light and evidence 
that can work a change in men's opinions; which 



4 JOHN 

light can in no manner proceed from corporal 
sufferings, or any other outward penalties. 

In the third place, the care of the salvation of 
men's souls cannot belong to the magistrate; be- 
cause, though the rigour of laws and the force of 
penalties were capable to convince and change 
men's minds, yet would not that help at all to 
the salvation of their souls. For there being but 
one truth, one way to heaven, what hope is there 
that more men would be led into it if they had 
no rule but the religion of the court and were 
put under the necessity to quit the light of their 
own reason, and oppose the dictates of their own 
consciences, and blindly to resign themselves up 
to the will of their governors and to the religion 
which either ignorance, ambition, or supersti- 
tion had chanced to establish in the countries 
where they were born? In the variety and con- 
tradiction of opinions in religion, wherein the 
princes of the world are as much divided as in 
their secular interests, the narrow way would be 
much straitened; one country alone would be in 
the right, and all the rest of the world put under 
an obligation of following their princes in the 
ways that lead to destruction; and that which 
heightens the absurdity, and very ill suits the no- 
tion of a Deity, men would owe their eternal hap- 
piness or misery to the places of their nativity. 

These considerations, to omit many others 
that might have been urged to the same purpose, 
seem unto me sufficient to conclude that all the 
power of civil government relates only to men's 
civil interests, is confined to the care of the things 
of this world, and hath nothing to do with the 
world to come. 

Let us now consider what a church is. jA_ 
church, then, I take to be a voluntary society of 
men^ joining themselves together of their own 
accord jnorder to the public worshipping of God 
Jgsuqh marOTeras they judge acceptable to Him, 
aS^lfcctuai^to.the salvation of their souls. 

I say it is a free and voluntary society. No- 
body is born a member of any church; otherwise 
the religion of parents would descend unto chil- 
dren by the same right of inheritance as their 
temporal estates, and everyone would hold his 
faith by the same tenure he does his lands, than 
which nothing can be imagined more absurd. 
Thus, therefore, that matter stands. r Noman_by_ 
nature is bound unto any^partijgn^:|^r rl-mrrfo or 



. voluntarily to 

tha soaetvjn. which he believes he, Wfpund 
warship > ^ich .ji&jtruly ac- 
The hope of salvation, as it was 



the only cause of his entrance into that rftTmrnin- 
ion, so it ca^ be the Qnly reason pf feis stay there. 



LOCKE 

For if afterwards he discover anything either er- 
roneous in the doctrine or incongruous in the 
worship of that society to which he has joined 
himself, why should it not be as free for him to 
go out as it was to enter? No member of a re- 
ligious society can be tied with any other bonds 
but what proceed from the certain expectation 
of eternal life. A church, then, is a society of 
members voluntarily uniting to that end. 

It follows now that we consider what is the 
power of this church and unto what laws it is 
subject. 

Forasmuch as no society, how free soever, 
or upon whatsoever slight occasion instituted, 
whether of philosophers for learning, of mer- 
chants for commerce, or of men of leisure for mu- 
tual conversation and discourse, no church or 
company, I say, can in the least subsist and hold 
together, but will presently dissolve and break 
in pieces, unless it be regulated by some laws, 
and the members all-consent to observe some or- 
der. Place and time of meeting must be agreed 
on; rules for admitting and excluding members 
must be established; distinction of officers, and 
putting things into a regular course, and such- 
like, cannot be omitted. But since the joining 
together of several members into this church- 
society, as has already been demonstrated, is ab- 
solutely free and spontaneous, it necessarily fol- 
lows that the right of making its laws can belong 
to none but the society itself; or, at least (which 
is the same thing), to those whom the society by 
common consent has authorised thereunto. 

Some, perhaps, may object that no such soci- 
ety can be said to be a true church unless it have 
in it a bishop or presbyter, with ruling authority 
derived from the very apostles, and continued 
down to the present times by an uninterrupted 
succession. 

To these I answer: In the first place, let them 
show me the edict by which Christ has imposed 
that law upon His Church. And let not any man 
think me impertinent, if in a thing of this conse- 
quence I require that the terms of that edict be 
very express and positive; for the promise He has 
made us, 1 that "wheresoever two or three are 
gathered together" in His name, He will be in 
the midst of them, seems to imply the contrary. 
Whether such an assembly want anything nec- 
essary to a true church, pray do you consider. 
Certain I am that nothing can be there wanting 
unto the salvation of souls, which is sufficient to 
our purpose. 

Next, pray observe how great have always 
* been the divisions amongst even those who lay 

1 Matt. 1 8. ao. 



A LETTER CONCERNING TOLERATION 



so much stress upon the Divine institution and 
continued succession of a certain order of rulers 
in the Church. Now, their very dissension un- 
avoidably puts us upon a necessity of deliberat- 
ing and, consequently, allows a liberty of choos- 
ing that which upon consideration we prefer. 

And, in the last place, I consent that these 
men have a ruler in their church, established by 
such a long series of succession as they judge nec- 
essary, provided I may have liberty at the same 
time to join myself to that society in which I am 
persuaded those things are to be found which 
are necessary to the salvation of my soul. In this 
manner ecclesiastical liberty will be preserved 
on all sides, and no man will have a legislator im- 
posed upon him but whom himself has chosen. 

But since men are so solicitous about the true 
church, I would only ask them here, by the way, 
if it be not more agreeable to the Church of 
Christ to make the conditions of her communion 
consist in such things, and such things only, as 
the Holy Spirit has in the Holy Scriptures de- 
clared, in express words, to be necessary to sal- 
vation; I ask, I say, whether this be not more 
agreeable to the Church of Christ than for men 
to impose their own inventions and interpreta- 
tions upon others as if they were of Divine au- 
thority, and to establish by ecclesiastical laws, as 
absolutely necessary to the profession of Christi- 
anity, such things as the Holy Scriptures do ei- 
ther not mention, or at least not expressly com- 
mand? Whosoever requires those things in order 
to ecclesiastical communion, which Christ does 
not require in order to life eternal, he may, per- 
haps, indeed constitute a society accommodated 
to his own opinion and his own advantage; but 
how that can be called the Church of Christ which 
is established upon laws that are not His, and 
which excludes such persons from its commun- 
ion as He will one day receive into the Kingdom 
of Heaven, I understand not. But this being not 
a proper place to inquire into the marks of the 
true church, I will only mind those that contend 
so earnestly for the decrees of their own society, 
and that cry out continually, "The Church! the 
Church !" with as much noise, and perhaps upon 
the same principle, as the Ephesian silversmiths 
did for their Diana; this, I say, I desire to mind 
them of, that the Gospel frequently declares that 
the true disciples of Christ must suffer persecu- 
tion; but that the Church of Christ should perse- 
cute others, and force others by fire and sword to 
embrace her faith and doctrine, I could never yet 
find in any of the books of the New Testament 

The end of a religious society (as has already 
been said) is the public worship of God and, by 



means thereof, the acquisition of eternal life. All 
discipline ought, therefore, to tend to that end, 
and all ecclesiastical laws to be thereunto con- 
fined. Nothing ought nor can be transacted in 
this society relating to the possession of civil and 
worldly goods. No force is here to be made use 
of upon any occasion whatsoever. For force be- 
longs wholly to the civil magistrate, and the 
possession of all outward goods is subject to his 
jurisdiction. 

But, it may be asked, by what means then 
shall ecclesiastical laws be established, if they 
must be thus destitute of all compulsive power? 
I answer: They must be established by means 
suitable to the nature of such things, whereof the 
external profession and observation if not pro- 
ceeding from a thorough conviction and appro- 
bation of the mind is altogether useless and un- 
profitable. The arms by which the members of 
this society are to be kept within their duty are 
exhortations, admonitions, and advices. If by 
these means the offenders will not be reclaimed, 
and the erroneous convinced, there remains 
nothing further to be done but that such stub- 
born and obstinate persons, who give no ground 
to hope for their reformation, should be cast out 
and separated from the society. This is the last 
and utmost force of ecclesiastical authority. No 
other punishment can thereby be inflicted than 
that, the relation ceasing between the body and 
the member which is cut off. The person so con- 
demned ceases to be a part of that church. 

These things being thus determined, let us in- 
quire, in the next place; How far the duty of 
toleration extends, and what is required from 
everyone by it? 

_And, first, I hold that no church is bound, by 
the_duty of toleration, to retain any such person 
in her bosom as, after admpnition^continuesjob- 
stinately to offend against the laws of the society. 
For, these being the condition of communion 
and the bond of the society, if the breach of them 
were permitted without any animadversion the 
society would immediately be thereby dissolved. 
But, nevertheless, in all such cases care is to be 
taken that the sentence of excommunication, 
and the execution thereof, carry with it no rough 
usage of word or action whereby the ejected per- 
son may any wise be damnified in body or estate. 
.For all force (as~ has jaften been said) belongs 
.^yJ:o_Ae_magistratQ,jaQr ought aay. private . 
jrersons^at any time to use force, unless it^be in 
^elf-defence against unjust violence. Excommu- 
nication neither does, nor can, deprive the ex- 
communicated person of any of those civil goods 
that he formerly possessed. All those things be- 



6 JOHN 

. long to the civil government and are under the 
magistrate's protection JThe whole force o^ex- 
cornmunication)consists only in this: that, the 
resolution of the society in that respect being de- 
clared, the union that was between the body and 
some member comes thereby to be dissolved; 
and, that relation ceasing, the participation of 
some certain things which the society communi- 
cated to its members, and unto which no man 
has any civil right, comes also to cease. For there 
is no civil injury done unto the excommunicated 
person by the church minister's refusing him 
that bread and wine, in the celebration of the 
Lord's Supper, which was not bought with his 
but other men's money. 

Secondly, no private person has any right in 
any manner to prejudice another person in his 
civil enjoyments because he is of another church 
or religion. All the rights and franchises that be- 
long to him as a man, or as a denizen, are invio- 
lably to be preserved to him. These are not the 
business of religion. No violence nor injury is to 
be offered him, whether he be Christian or Pa- 
gan. Nay, we must not content ourselves with 
the narrow measures of bare justice; charity, 
bounty, and liberality must be added to it. This 
the Gospel enjoins, this reason directs, and this 
that natural fellowship we are born into requires 
of us. If any man err from the right way, it is 
his own misfortune, no injury to thee; nor there- 
fore art thou to punish him in the things of this 
life because thou supposest he will be miserable 
in that which is to come. 

What I say concerning the mutual toleration 
of private persons differing from one another in 
religion, I understand also of particular churches 
which stand, as it were, in the same relation to 
each other as private persons among themselves : 
nor has any one of them any manner of juris- 
diction over any other; no, not even when the 
civil magistrate (as it sometimes happens) comes 
to be of this or the other communion. For the 
civil government can give no new right to the 
church, nor the church to the civil government. 
So that, whether the magistrate join himself to 
any church, or separate from it, the church re- 
mains always as it was before a free and volun- 
tary society. It neither requires the power of the 
sword by tbe magistrate's coming to it, nor does 
it lose the right of instruction and excommuni- 
cation by his going from it. PUS is the 
llmrnutabk right 



.it has power to remove ^any ofite 
members ^itotress tfie rutes~of its institu- 




eew 



LOCKE 

those that are not joined with it. And therefore 
peace, equity, and friendship are always mutu- 
ally to be observed by particular churches, in 
the same manner as by private persons, without 
any pretence of superiority or jurisdiction over 
one another. 

That the thing may be made clearer by an ex- 
ample, let us suppose two churches the one of 
Arminians, the other of Calvinists residing in 
the city of Constantinople. Will anyone say that 
either of these churches has right to deprive the 
members of the other of their estates and liberty 
(as we see practised elsewhere) because of their 
differing from it in some doctrines and cere- 
monies, whilst the Turks, in the meanwhile, si- 
lently stand by and laugh to see with what inhu- 
man cruelty Christians thus rage against Chris- 
tians? But if one of these churches hath this pow- 
er of treating the other ill, I ask which of them 
it is to whom that power belongs, and by what 
right? It will be answered, undoubtedly, that it 
is the orthodox church which has the right of 
authority over the erroneous or heretical. This 
is, in great and specious words, to say just noth- 
ing at all. For every church is orthodox to it- 
self; to others, erroneous or heretical. For what- 
soever any church believes, it believes to be trues 
and the contrary unto those things it pronounce; 
to be error. So that the controversy between 
these churches about the truth of their doctrines 
and the purity of their worship is on both sides 
equal; nor is there any judge, either at Constan- 
tinople or elsewhere upon earth, by whose sen- 
tence it can be determined. The decision of that 
question belongs only to the Supreme Judge of 
all men, to whom also alone belongs the punish- 
ment of the erroneous. In the meanwhile, let 
those men consider how heinously they sin, who, 
adding injustice, if not to their error, yet cer- 
tainly to their pride, do rashly and arrogantly 
take upon them to misuse the servants of anoth- 
er master, who are not at all accountable to 
them. 

Nay, further: if it could be manifest which of 
these two dissenting churches were in the right, 
there would not accrue thereby unto the or- 
thodox any right of destroying the other. For 
churches have neither any jurisdiction in worldly 
matters, nor are fire and sword any proper instru- 
ments wherewith to convince men's minds of er- 
ror, and inform them of the truth. Let us sup- 
pose, nevertheless, that the civil magistrate in- 
clined to favour one of them and to put his 
sword into their hands that (by his consent) they 
might chastise the dissenters as they pleased. 
Will any man say that toy right can be derived 



A LETTER CONCERNING TOLERATION 



unto a Christian church over its brethren from 
a Turkish emperor? An infidel, who has him- 
self no authority to punish Christians for the 
articles of their faith, cannot confer such an au- 
thority upon any society of Christians, nor give 
unto them a right which he has not himself. This 
would be the case at Constantinople; and the 
reason of the thing is the same in any Christian 
kingdom. The civil power is the same in every 
place. Nor can that power, in the hands of a 
Christian prince, confer any greater authority 
upon the Church than in the hands of a heathen ; 
which is to say, just none at all. 

Nevertheless, it is worthy to be observed and 
lamented that the most violent of these defend- 
ers of the truth, the opposers of errors, the ex- 
claimers against(schisn^do hardly ever let loose 
this their zeal for God, with which they are so 
warmed and inflamed, unless where they have 
the civil magistrate on their side. But so soon as 
ever court favour has given them the better end 
of the staff, and they begin to feel themselves the 
stronger, then presently peace and charity are 
to be laid aside. Otherwise they are religiously 
to be observed. Where they have not the power 
to carry on persecution and to become masters, 
there they desire to live upon fan* terms and 
preach up toleration. When they are not strength- 
ened with the civil power, then they can bear 
most patiently and unmovedly the contagion 
of idolatry, superstition, and heresy in their 
neighbourhood; of which on other occasions the 
interest of religion makes them to be extremely 
apprehensive. They do notforwardly attack those 
errors which are in fashion at court or are coun- 
tenanced by the government. Here they can be 
content to spare their arguments; which yet 
(with their leave) is the only right method of 
propagating truth, which has no such way of 
prevailing as when strong arguments and good 
reason are joined with the softness of civility and 
good usage. 

Nobody, therefore, hi fine, neither single per- 
sonsnorchurches, nay, nor evencommonwealths, 
have any just title to invade the civil rights and 
worldly goods of each other upon pretence of 
religion. Those that are of another opinion would 
do well to consider with themselves how perni- 
cious a seed of discord and war, how powerful a 
provocation to endless hatreds, rapines, and 
slaughters they thereby furnish unto mankind. 
No peace and security, no, not so much as com- 
mon friendship, can ever be established or pre- 
served amongst men so long as this opinion pre- 
vails, that dominion is founded in grace and that 
religion is to be propagated by force of arms. 



/ In the third place, let us see what the duty of 
toleration requires from those who are distin- 
guished from the rest of mankind (from the laity, 
as they please to call us) by some ecclesiastical 
character and office; whether they be bishops, 
priests, presbyters, ministers, or however else 
dignified or distinguished. It is not my business 
to inquire here into the original of the power or 
dignity of the clergy. This only I say, that, whence- 
soever their authority be sprung, since it is.ec- 
clesiastical,^: ought to be confined within the 
bounds of the Church, nor can it in any manner 
be extended to civil affairs, because the Church 
itself is a thing absolutely separate and distinct 
from the commonwealth. The boundaries on 
both sides are fixed and immovable. He jumbles 
heaven and earth together, the things most re- 
mote and opposite, who mixes these two socie- 
ties, which are in their original, end, business, 
and in everything perfectly distinct and infinite- 
ly different from each other. No man, therefore, 
with whatsoever ecclesiastical office he be dig- 
nified, can deprive another man that is not of 
his church and faith either of liberty or of any 
part of his worldly goods upon the account of 
that difference between them in religion. For 
whatsoever is not lawful to the whole Church 
cannot by any ecclesiastical right become law- 
ful to any of its members. 

But this is not all. It is not enough that ec- 
clesiastical men abstain from violence and rap- 
ine and all manner of persecution. He that pre- 
tends to be a successor of the apostles, and takes 
upon him the office of teaching, is obliged also 
to admonish his hearers of the duties of peace 
and goodwill towards all men, as well towards 
the erroneous as the orthodox; towards those 
that differ from them in faith and worship as well 
as towards those that agree with them therein, 
And he ought industriously to exhort all men, 
whether private persons or magistrates (if any 
such there be in his church), to charity, meek- 
ness, and toleration, and diligently endeavour 
to ally and temper all that heat and unreason- 
able averseness of mind which either any man 3 s 
fiery zeal for his own sect or the craft of others 
has kindled against dissenters. I will not under- 
take to represent how happy and how great 
would be the fruit, both in Church and State, if 
the pulpits everywhere sounded with this doc- 
trine of peace and toleration, lest I should seem 
to reflect too severely upon those men whose dig- 
nity I desire not to detract from, nor would have 
it diminished either by others or themselves. But 
this I say, that thus it ought to be. And if any- 
one that professes himself to be a minister of the 



8 

Word of God, a preacher of the gospel of peace, 
teach otherwise, he either understands not or 
neglects the business of his calling and shall one 
day give account thereof unto the Prince of Peace. 
If Christians are to be admonished that they ab- 
stain from all manner of revenge, even after re- 
peated provocations and multiplied injuries, how 
much more ought they who suffer nothing, who 
have had no harm done them, forbear violence 
and abstain from all manner of ill-usage towards 
those from whom they have received none ! This 
caution and temper they ought certainly to use 
towards those who mind only their own business 
and are solicitous for nothing but that (what- 
ever men think of them) they may worship God 
in that manner which they are persuaded is ac- 
ceptable to Him and in which they have the 
strongest hopes of eternal salvation. In private 
domestic affairs, in the management of estates, 
in the conservation of bodily health, every man 
may consider what suits his own convenience 
and follow what course he likes best. No man 
complains of the ill-management of his neigh- 
bour's affairs. No man is angry with another for 
an error committed in sowing his land or in mar- 
rying his daughter. Nobody corrects a spend- 
thrift for consuming his substance in taverns. 
Let any man pull down, or build, or make what- 
soever expenses he pleases, nobody murmurs, no- 
body controls him; he has his liberty. But if any 
man do not frequent the' church, if he do not 
there conform his behaviour exactly to the ac- 
customed ceremonies, or if he brings not his 
children to be initiated in the sacred mysteries of 
this or the other congregation, this immediately 
causes an uproar. The neighbourhood is filled 
with noise and clamour. Everyone is ready to be 
the avenger of so great a crime, and the zealots 
hardly have the patience to refrain from vio- 
lence and rapine so long till the cause be heard 
and the poor man be, according to form, con- 
demned to the loss of liberty, goods, or life. Oh, 
that our ecclesiastical orators of every sect would 
apply themselves with all the strength of argu- 
ments that they are able to the confounding of 
naen's errors! But let them spare their persons. 
Let them not supply their want of reasons with 
the instruments offeree, which belong to anoth- 
er jurisdiction and do ill become a Churchman's 
hands, Let them not call in the magistrate's au- 
thority to the aid of their eloquence or learning, 
lest perhaps, whilst they pretend only love for 
the truth, this their intemperate zeal, breathing 
nothing but fire and sword, betray their ambi- 
tion and f show that what they desire is temporal 
dominion. For k %di be very ^^ctilt to'per- 



JOHN LOCKE 



suade men of sense that he who with dry eyes 
and satisfaction of mind can deliver his brother 
to the executioner to be burnt alive, does sin- 
cerely and heartily concern himself to save that 
brother from the flames of hell in the world to 
come. 

/ In the last place, let us now consider what is 
-the magistrate's duty in the business of tolera- 
tion, which certainly is very considerable. 
'-. We have already proved that the care of souls 
does not belong to the magistrate. Not a magis- 
terial care, I mean (if I may so call it), which 
consists in prescribing by laws and compelling 
by punishments. But a charitable care, which 
consists in teaching, admonishing, and persuad- 
ing, cannot be denied unto any man. The care, 
therefore, of every man's soul belongs unto him- 
self and is to be left unto himself. But what if he 
neglect the care of his soul? I answer: What if he 
neglect the care of his health or of his estate, 
which things are nearlier related to the govern- 
ment of the magistrate than the other? Will the 
magistrate provide by an express law that such 
a one shall not become poor or sick? Laws pro- 
vide, as much as is possible, that the goods and 
health of subjects be not injured by the fraud 
and violence of others; they do not guard them 
from the negligence or ill-husbandry of the pos- 
sessors themselves. No man can be forced to be 
rich or healthful whether he will or no. Nay, 
God Himself will not save men against their 
wills. Let us suppose, however, that some prince 
were desirous to force his subjects to accumulate 
riches, or to preserve the health and strength of 
their bodies. Shall it be provided by law that 
they must consult none but Roman physicians, 
and shall everyone be bound to live according 
to their prescriptions? What, shall no potion, no 
broth, be taken, but what is prepared either in 
the Vatican, suppose, or in a Geneva shop? Or, 
to make these subjects rich, shall they all be 
obliged by law to become merchants or musi- 
cians?Or, shall everyone turn victualler, or smith, 
because there are some that maintain their fami- 
lies plentifully and grow rich in those profes- 
sions? But, it may be said, there are a thousand 
ways to wealth, but one only way to heaven. It 
is well said, indeed, especially by those that plead 
for compelling men into this or the other way. 
For if there were several ways that led thither, 
there would not be so much as a pretence left for 
compulsion. But now, if I be marching on with 
my utmost vigour in that way which, according 
to the sacred geography, leads straight to Je- 
rusalem, why am I beaten and ill-used by others 
because, perhaps, I wear not buskins; because 



A LETTER CONCERNING TOLERATION 



my hair is not of the right cut; because, perhaps, 
I have not been dipped in the right fashion; be- 
cause I eat flesh upon the road, or some other 
food which agrees with my stomach; because I 
avoid certain by-ways, which seem unto me to 
lead into briars or precipices; because, amongst 
the several paths that are in the same road, I 
choose that to walk in which seems to be the 
straightest and cleanest; because I avoid to keep 
company with some travellers that are less grave 
and others that are more sour than they ought 
to be; or, in fine, because I follow a guide that 
either is, or is not, clothed in white, or crowned 
with a mitre? Certainly, if we consider right, we 
shall find that, for the most part, they are such 
frivolous things as these that (without any preju- 
dice to religion or the salvation of souls, if not ac- 
companied with superstition or hypocrisy) might 
either be observed or omitted. I say they are 
such-like things as these which breed implaca- 
ble enmities amongst Christian brethren, who 
are all agreed in the substantial and truly funda- 
mental part of religion. 

But let us grant unto these zealots, who con- 
demn all things that are not of their mode, that 
from these circumstances are different ends. 
What shall we conclude from thence? There is 
only one of these which is the true way to eternal 
happiness: but in this great variety of ways that 
men follow, it is still doubted which is the right 
one. Now, neither the care of the commonwealth, 
nor the right enacting of laws, does discover this 
way that leads to heaven more certainly to the 
magistrate than every private man's search and 
study discovers it unto himself. I have a weak 
body, sunk under a languishing disease, for which 
(I suppose) there is one only remedy, but that 
unknown. Does it therefore belongunto the mag- 
istrate to prescribe me a remedy, because there 
is but one, and because it is unknown? Because 
there is but one way for me to escape death, will 
it therefore be safe for me to do whatsoever the 
magistrate ordains? Those things that every man 
ought sincerely to inquire into himself, and by 
meditation, study, search, and his own endeav- 
ours, attain the knowledge of, cannot be looked 
upon as the peculiar possession of any sort of 
men. Princes, indeed, are born superior unto* 
other men in power, but in nature equal. Nei- 
ther the right nor the art of ruling does neces- 
sarily carry along with it the certain knowledge 
of other things, and least of all of true religion. 
For if it were so, how could it come to pass that 
the lords of the earth should differ so vastly as 
they do in religious matters? But let us grant that 
it is probable the way to eternal life may.be bet- 



ter known by a prince than by his subjects, or at 
least that in this incertitude of things the safest 
and most commodious way for private persons 
is to follow his dictates. You will say: "What 
then?" If he should bid you follow merchandise 
for your livelihood, would you decline that course 
for fear it should not succeed? I answer: I would 
turn merchant upon the prince's command, be- 
cause, in case I should have ill-success in trade, 
he is abundantly able to make up my loss some 
other way. If it be true, as he pretends, that he 
desires I should thrive and grow rich, he can set 
me up again when unsuccessful voyages have 
broken me. But this is not the case in the things 
that regard the life to come; if there I take a 
wrong course, if in that respect I am once un- 
done, it is not in the magistrate's power to repair 
my loss, to ease my suffering, nor to restore me 
in any measure, much less entirely, to a good 
estate. What security can be given for the King- 
dom of Heaven? 

Perhaps some will say that they do not sup- 
pose this infallible judgement, that all men are 
bound to follow in the affairs of religion, to be 
in the civil magistrate, but in the Church. What 
the Church has determined, that the civil mag- 
istrate orders to be observed; and he provides 
by his authority that nobody shall either act or 
believe in the business of religion otherwise than 
the Church teaches. So that the judgement of 
those things is hi the Church; the magistrate 
himself yields obedience thereunto and requires 
the like obedience from others. I answer: Who 
sees not how frequently the name of the Church, 
which was venerable in time of the apostles, has 
been made use of to throw dust in the people's 
eyes in the following ages? But, however, in the 
present case it helps us not The one only nar- 
row way which leads to heaven is not better 
known to the magistrate than to private persons, 
and therefore I cannot safely take him for my 
guide, who may probably be as ignorant of the 
way as myself, and who certainly is less con- 
cerned for my salvation than I myself am. 
Amongst so many kings of the Jews, how many of 
them were there whom any Israelite, thus blind- 
ly following, had not fallen into idolatry and 
thereby into destruction? Yet, nevertheless, you 
bid me be of good courage and tell me that all 
is now safe and secure, because the magistrate 
does not now enjoin the observance of his own 
decrees in matters of religion, but only the de- 
crees of the Church. Of what Church, I beseech 
you? of that, certainly, which likes him best. As 
if he that compels me by laws and penalties to 
enter into this or the other Church, did not in- 



10 

terpose his own judgement in the matter. What 
difference is there whether he lead me himself, 
or deliver me over to be led by others? I depend 
both ways upon his will, and it is he that deter- 
mines both ways of my eternal state. Would an 
Israelite that had worshipped Baal upon the 
command of his king have been in any better 
condition because somebody had told him that 
the king ordered nothing in religion upon his 
own head, nor commanded anything to be done 
by his subjects in divine worship but what was 
approved by the counsel of priests, and declared 
to be of divine right by the doctors of their 
Church? If the religion of any Church become, 
therefore, true and saving, because the head of 
that sect, the prelates and priests, and those of 
that tribe, do all of them, with all their might, 
extol and praise it, what religion can ever be ac- 
counted erroneous, false, and destructive? I am 
doubtful concerning the doctrine of the Socini- 
ans, I am suspicious, of the way of worship prac- 
tised by the Papists, or Lutherans; will it be ever 
a jot safer for me to join either unto the one or 
the other of those Churches, upon the magis- 
trate's command, because he commands noth- 
ing in religion but by the authority and counsel 
of the doctors of that Church? 

But, to speak the truth, we must acknowledge 
that the Church (if a convention of clergymen, 
making canons, must be called by that name) 
is for the most part more apt to be influenced by 
the Court than the Court by the Church. How 
the Church was under the vicissitude of ortho- 
dox and Arian emperors is very well known. Or 
if those things be too remote, our modern Eng- 
lish history affords us fresh examples in the reigns 
of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary, and Eliza- 
beth, how easily andsmoothlytheclergy changed 
their decrees, their articles of faith, their form of 
worship, everything according to the inclina- 
tion of those Icings and queens. Yet were those 
kings and queens ofsuchdifferent minds in point 
of religion, and enjoined thereupon such dif- 
ferent things, that no man in his wits (I had al- 
most said none but an atheist) will presume to 
say that any sincere and upright worshipper of 
God could, with a safe conscience, obey their 
several decrees. To conclude, it is the same thing 
Vfbeiher a Mag that prescribes laws to another 
man's religion pretend to do it by his own judge- 
ment, or by the ecclesiastical authority and ad- 
vicec otJiers. Hiedecisioiis of churchmen, whose 
difiercucesand disputes are sufficiently known, 
cannot be any sounder or safer than Ms; nor can 
ail tfeeir sitfeiges joined .together add a new 

must 



JOHN LOCKE 



be taken notice of that princes seldom have 
any regard to the suffrages of ecclesiastics that 
are not favourers of their own faith and way of 
worship. 

But, after all, the principal consideration, and 
which absolutely determines this controversy, is 
this: Although the magistrate's opinion in re- 
ligion be sound, and the way that he appoints be 
truly Evangelical, yet, if I be not thoroughly 
persuaded thereof in my own mind, there will 
be no safety for me in following it. No way what- 
soever that I shall walk in against the dictates of 
my conscience will ever bring me to the man- 
sions of the blessed. I may grow rich by an art 
that I take not delight in; I may be cured of 
some disease by remedies that I have not faith 
in; but I cannot be saved by a religion that I 
distrust and by a worship that I abhor. It is in 
vain for an unbeliever to take up the outward 
show of another man's profession. Faith only 
and inward sincerity are the things that procure 
acceptance with God. The most likely and most 
approved remedy can have no effect upon the 
patient, if his stomach reject it as soon as taken; 
and you will in vain cram a medicine down a 
sick man's throat, which his particular constitu- 
tion will be sure to turn into poison. In a word, 
whatsoever may be doubtful in religion, yet this 
at least is certain, that no religion which I be- 
lieve not to be true can be either true or profita- 
ble unto me. In vain, therefore, do princes com- 
pel their subjects to come into their Church com- 
munion, under pretence of saving their souls. If 
they believe, they will come of their own ac- 
cord, if they believe not, their coming will noth- 
ing avail them. How great soever, in fine, may 
be the pretence of good-will and charity, and 
concern for the salvation of men's souls, men 
cannot be forced to be saved whether they will 
or no. And therefore, when all is done, they 
must be left to their own consciences. 

Having thus at length freed men from all do- 
minion over one another in matters of religion, 
let us now consider what they are to do. All men 
know and acknowledge that God ought to be 
publicly worshipped; why otherwise do they 
compel one another unto the public assemblies? 
*Men, therefore, constituted in this liberty are to 
enter into some religious society, that they meet 
together, not only for mutual edification, but to 
own to the world that they worship God and of- 
fer unto His Divine Majesty such service as they 
themselves are not ashamed of and such as they 
think not unworthy of Him, nor unacceptable 
to Him; and, finally, that by the purity of doc- 
and decent form of wor- 



A LETTER CONCERNING TOLERATION 



ship, they may draw others unto the love of the 
true religion, and perform such other things in 
religion as cannot be done by each private man 
apart. 

These religious societies I call Churches; and 
these, I say, the magistrate ought to tolerate, for 
the business of these assemblies of the people is 
nothing but what is lawful for every man hi par- 
ticular to take care of I mean the salvation of 
their souls; nor in this case is there any differ- 
ence between the National Church and other 
separated congregations. 

" J?ut_ as in every Church there_are two things 
especially ^to be considered tlie.outward form 
and rites of worship, and the doctrines and ar- 
ticles of faith these things must be handled each 
distinctly that so the whole matter of toleration 
may the more clearly be understood. 
! Concerning outward worship, I say, in the 
first place, that the magistrate has no power to 
enforce by law, either in his own Church, or 
much less in another, the use of any rites or cere- 
monies whatsoever in the worship of God. And 
this, not only because these Churches are free 
societies, but because whatsoever is practised in 
the worship of God is only so far justifiable as it 
is believed by those that practise it to be ac- 
ceptable unto Him. Whatsoever is not done with 
that assurance of faith is neither well in itself, 
nor can it be acceptable to God. To impose such 
things, therefore, upon any people, contrary to 
their own judgment, is in effect to command 
them to offend God, which, considering that the 
end of all religion is to please Him, and that 
liberty is essentially necessary to that end, ap- 
pears to be absurd beyond expression. 

But perhaps it may be concluded from hence 
that I deny unto the magistrate all manner of 
power about indifferent things, which, if it be 
not granted, the whole subject-matter of law- 
making is taken away. No, I readily grant that 
indifferent things, and perhaps none but such, 
are subjected to the legislative power. But it does 
not therefore follow that the magistrate may or- 
dain whatsoever he pleases concerning anything 
that is indifferent The public good is the rule 
and measure of all law-making. If a thing be not 
useful to the commonwealth, though it be never 
so indifferent, it may not presently be established 
bylaw. 

Andfurther, things never so indifferent in their 
own nature, when they are brought into the 
Church and worship of God, are removed out of 
the reach of the magistrate's jurisdiction, be- 
cause in that use they have no connection at all 
with civil affairs* The only business of the Church 



II 

is the salvation of souls, and it no way concerns 
the commonwealth, or any member of it, that 
this or the other ceremony be there made use of. 
Neither the use nor the omission of any cere- 
monies in those religious assemblies does either 
advantage or prejudice the life, liberty, or es- 
tate of any man. For example, let it be granted 
that the washing of an infant with water is in it- 
self an indifferent thing, let it be granted also 
that the magistrate understand such washing to 
be profitable to the curing or preventing of any 
disease the children are subject unto, and esteem 
the matter weighty enough to be taken care of 
by a law. In that case he may order it to be 
done. But will any one therefore say that a mag- 
istrate has the same right to ordain by law that 
all children shall be baptised by priests in the 
sacred font in order to the purification of their 
souls? The extreme difference of these two cases 
is visible to every one at first sight. Or let us ap- 
ply the last case to the child of a Jew, and the 
thing speaks itself. For what hinders but a Chris- 
tian magistrate may have subjects that are Jews? 
Now, if we acknowledge that such an injury 
may not be done unto a Jew as to compel him, 
against his own opinion, to practise in his reli- 
gion a thing that is in its nature indifferent, how 
can we maintain that anything of this kind may 
be done to a Christian? 

Again, things in their own nature indifferent 
cannot, by any human authority, be made any 
part of the worship of God for this very rea- 
son: because they are indifferent For, since in- 
different things are not capable, by any virtue of 
their own, to propitiate the Deity, no human 
power or authority can confer on them so much 
dignity and excellency as to enable them to do 
it. In the common affairs of life that use of in- 
different things which God has not forbidden is 
free and lawful, and therefore in those things 
human authority has place. But it is not so in 
matters of religion. Things indifferent are not 
otherwise lawful in the worship of God than as 
they are instituted by God Himself and as He, 
by some positive command, has ordained them 
to be made a part of that worship which He will 
vouchsafe to accept at the hands of poor sinful 
men. Nor, when an incensed Deity shall ask us, 
"Who has required these, or such-like things at 
your hands?" will it be enough to answer Him 
that the magistrate commanded them. If civil 
jurisdiction extend thus far, what might not law- 
fully be introduced into religion? What hodge- 
podge of ceremonies, what superstitious inven- 
tions, built upon the magistrate's authority 
might not (against conscience) be imposed upon 



12 

the worshippers of God? For the greatest part of 
these ceremonies and superstitions consists in the 
religious use of such things as are in their own 
nature indifferent; nor are they sinful upon any 
other account than because God is not the au- 
thor of them. The sprinkling of water and the 
use of bread and wine are both in their own na- 
ture and in the ordinary occasions of life alto- 
gether indifferent. Will any man, therefore, say 
that these things could have been introduced in- 
' to religion and made a part of divine worship if 
not by divine institution? If any human author- 
ity or civil power could have done this, why 
might it not also enjoin the eating of fish and 
drinking of ale in the holy banquet as a part of 
divine worship? Why not the sprinkling of the 
blood of beasts in churches, and expiations by 
water or fire, and abundance more of this kind? 
But these things, how indifferent soever they be 
in common uses, when they come to be annexed 
unto divine worship, without divine authority, 
they are as abominable to God as the sacrifice 
of a dog. And why is a dog so abominable? What 
difference is there between a dog and a goat, in 
respect of the divine nature, equally and infi- 
nitely distant from all affinity with matter, un- 
less it be that God required the use of one in His 
worship and not of the other? We see, therefore, 
that indifferent things, how much soever they 
be under the power of the civil magistrate, yet 
cannot, upon that pretence, be introduced into 
religion and imposed upon religious assemblies, 
because, in the worship of God, they wholly 
cease to be indifferent. He that worships God 
does it with design to please Him and procure 
His favour. But that cannot be done by him who, 
upon the command of another, offers unto God 
that which he knows will be displeasing to Him, 
because not commanded by Himself. This is not 
to please God, or appease his wrath, but will- 
ingly and knowingly to provoke Him by a man- 
ifest contempt, which is a thing absolutely re- 
pugnant to the nature and end of worship. 
* But it will be here asked: "If nothing belong- 
ing to divine worship be left to human discre- 
tion, how is it then that Churches themselves 
have the power of ordering anything about the 
time and place of worship and the like? To this 
I answer that in religious worship we must dis- 
tinguish between what is part of the worship it- 
self and what is but a circumstance. That is a 
part of tfee worship which is believed to be ap- 
pointed by God and to be well-pleasing to Him, 
and therefore that is necessary. Circumstances 
are such thinp which, though hi general they 
cannot be separated Iroto wbrsfeif^yet ^e par- 



JOHN LOCKE 



ticular instances or modifications of them are 
not determined, and therefore they are indiffer- 
ent. Of this sort are the time and place of wor- 
ship, habit and posture of him that worships. 
These are circumstances, and perfectly indiffer- 
ent, where God has not given any express com- 
mand about them. For example: amongst the 
Jews the time and place of their worship and the 
habits of those that officiated in it were not mere 
circumstances, but a part of the worship itself, 
in which, if anything were defective, or different 
from the institution, they could not hope that it 
would be accepted by God. But these, to Chris- 
tians under the liberty of the Gospel, are mere 
circumstances of worship, which the prudence 
of every Church may bring into such use as shall 
be judged most subservient to the end of order, 
decency, and edification. But, even under the 
Gospel, those who believe the first or the seventh 
day to be set apart by God, and consecrated still 
to His worship, to them that portion of time is 
not a simple circumstance, but a real part of Di- 
vine worship, which can neither be changed nor 
neglected. 

In the next place: As the magistrate has no 
power to impose by his laws the use of any rites 
and ceremonies in any Church, so neither has 
he any power to forbid the use of such rites and 
ceremonies as are already received, approved, 
and practised by any Church; because, if he did 
so, he would destroy the Church itself: the end 
of whose institution is only to worship God with 
freedom after its own manner. 

You will say, by this rule, if some congrega- 
tions should have a mind to sacrifice infants, or 
(as the primitive Christians were falsely accused) 
lustfully pollute themselves in promiscuous un- 
cleanness, or practise any other such heinous 
enormities, is the magistrate obliged to tolerate 
them, because they are committed in a religious 
assembly? I answer: No. These things are not 
lawful in the ordinary course of life, nor in any 
private house; and therefore neither are they so 
in the worship of God, or in any religious meet- 
ing. But, indeed, if any people congregated upon 
account of religion should be desirous to sacri- 
fice a calf, I deny that that ought to be prohib- 
ited by a law. Meliboeus, whose calf it is, may 
lawfully kill his calf at home, and burn any part 
of it that he thinks fit. For no injury is thereby 
done to any one, no prejudice to another man's 
goods. And for the same reason he may kill his 
calf also in a religious meeting. Whether the do- 
ing so be well-pleasing to God or no, it is their 
part to consider that do it. The part of the mag- 
istrate is only to take care that the common- 



A LETTER CONCERNING TOLERATION 



wealth receive no prejudice, and that there be 
no injury done to any man, either in life or es- 
tate. And thus what may be spent on a feast may 
be spent on a sacrifice. But if peradventure such 
were the state of things that the interest of the 
commonwealth required all slaughter of beasts 
should be forborne for some while, in order to 
the increasing of the stock of cattle that had been 
destroyed by some extraordinary murrain, who 
sees not that the magistrate, in such a case, may 
forbid all his subjects to kill any calves for any 
use whatsoever? Only it is to be observed that, 
in this case, the law is not made about a reli- 
gious, but a political matter; nor is the sacrifice, 
but the slaughter of calves, thereby prohibited. 

By this we see what difference there is between 
the Church and the Commonwealth. Whatso- 
ever is lawful in the Commonwealth cannot be 
prohibited by the magistrate in the Church. 
Whatsoever is permitted unto any of his subjects 
for then- ordinary use, neither can nor ought to 
be forbidden by him to any sect of people for 
their religious uses. If any man may lawfully take 
bread or wine, either sitting or kneeling hi his 
own house, the law ought not to abridge him of 
the same liberty in his religious worship; though 
in the Church the use of bread and wine be very 
different and be there applied to the mysteries 
of faith and rites of Divine worship. But those 
things that are prejudicial to the commonweal 
of a people in their ordinary use and are, there- 
fore, forbidden by laws, those things ought not 
to be permitted to Churches in their sacred rites. 
Only the magistrate ought always to be very 
careful that he do not misuse his authority to the 
oppression of any Church, under pretence of 
public good. 

It may be said: "What if a Church be idola- 
trous, is that also to be tolerated by the magis- 
trate?" I answer: What power can be given to 
the magistrate for the suppression of an idola- 
trous Church, which may not in time and place 
be made use of to the ruin of an orthodox one? 
For it must be remembered that the civil power 
is the same everywhere, and the religion of every 
prince is orthodox to himself. If, therefore, such 
a power be granted unto the civil magistrate in 
spirituals as that at Geneva, for example, he 
may extirpate, by violence and blood, the reli- 
gion which is there reputed idolatrous, by the 
same rule another magistrate, in some neigh- 
bouring country, may oppress the reformed re- 
ligion and, in India, the Christian, The civil 
power can either change everything in religion, 
accordingtotheprince'spleasure,oritcan change 
nothing. If it be once permitted to introduce any- 



thing into religion by the means of laws and 
penalties, there can be no bounds put to it; but 
it will in the same manner be lawful to alter 
everything, according to that rule of truth which 
the magistrate has framed unto himself. No man 
whatsoever ought, therefore, to be deprived of 
his terrestrial enjoyments upon account of his 
religion. Not even Americans, subjected unto a 
Christian prince, are to be punished either in 
body or goods for not embracing our faith and 
worship. If they are persuaded that they please 
God in observing the rites of their own country 
and that they shall obtain happiness by that 
means, they are to be left unto God and them- 
selves. Let us trace this matter to the bottom. 
Thus it is: An inconsiderable and weak number 
of Christians, destitute of everything, arrive in a 
Pagan country; these foreigners beseech the in- 
habitants, by the bowels of humanity, that they 
would succour them with the necessaries of life; 
those necessaries are given them, habitations are 
granted, and they all join together, and grow up 
into one body of people. The Christian religion 
by this means takes root in that country and 
spreads itself, but does not suddenly grow the 
strongest. While things are in this condi tion peace, 
friendship, faith, and equal justice are preserved 
amongst them. At length the magistrate becomes 
a Christian, and by that means their party be- 
comes the most powerful. Then immediately all 
compacts are to be broken, all civil rights to be 
violated, that idolatry may be extirpated; and 
unless these innocent Pagans, strict observers of 
the rules of equity and the law of Nature and no 
ways offending against the laws of the society, I 
say, unless they will forsake their ancient reli- 
gion and embrace a new and strange one, they 
are to be turned out of the lands and possessions 
of then- forefathers and perhaps deprived of life 
itself. Then, at last, it appears what zeal for the 
Church, joined with the desire of dominion, is 
capable to produce, and how easily the pre- 
tence of religion, and of the care of souls, serves 
for a cloak to covetousness, rapine, and ambi- 
tion. 

Now whosoever maintains that idolatry is to . 
be rooted out of any place bylaws, punishments, 
fire, and sword, may apply this story to himself, 
For the reason of the thing is equal, both hi Ameri- 
ca and Europe. And neither Pagans there, nor 
any dissenting Christians here, can, with any 
right, be deprived of their worldly goods by the 
predominating faction of a court-church; nor 
are any civil rights to be either changed or vio- 
lated upon account of religion in one place more 
another. 



JOHN LOCKE 



But idolatry, say some, is a sin and therefore 
not to be tolerated. If they said it were therefore 
to be avoided, the inference were good. But it 
does not follow that because it is a sin it ought 
therefore to be punished by the magistrate. For 
it does not belong unto the magistrate to make 
use of his sword hi punishing everything, indif- 
ferently, that he takes to be a sin against God. 
Covetousness, uncharitableness, idleness, and 
many other things are sins by the consent of men, 
which yet no man ever said were to be punished 
by the magistrate. The reason is because they 
are not prejudicial to other men's rights, nor do 
they break the public peace of societies. Nay, 
even the sins of lying and perjury are nowhere 
punishable by laws; unless, in certain cases, in 
which the real turpitude of the thing and the of- 
fence against God are not considered, but only 
the injury done unto men's neighbours and to 
the commonwealth. And what if in another coun- 
try, to a Mahometan or a Pagan prince, the 
Christian religion seem false and offensive to 
God; may not the Christians for the same rea- 
son, and after the same manner, be extirpated 
there? 

< But it may be urged farther that, by the law of 
Moses, idolaters were to be rooted out. True, in- 
deed, by the law of Moses; but that is not obliga- 
tory to us Christians. Nobody pretends that ev- 
erything generally enjoined by the law of Moses 
ought to be practised by Christians; but there is 
nothing more frivolous than that common dis- 
tinction of moral, judicial, and ceremonial law, 
which men ordinarily make use of. For no posi- 
tive law whatsoever can oblige any people but 
those to whom it is given. "Hear, O Israel,' 9 suf- 
ficiently restrains the obligations of the law of 
Moses only to that people. And this considera- 
tion alone is answer enough unto those that urge 
the authority of the law of Moses for the inflict- 
ing of capital punishment upon idolaters. But, 
however, I will examine this argument a little 
more particularly. 

The case of idolaters, in respect of the Jewish 
commonwealth, falls under a double considera- 
tion. The first is of those who, being initiated in 
the Mosaical rites, and made citizens of that 
commonwealth, did afterwards apostatise from 
the worship of the God of Israel These were 
proceeded against as traitors and rebels, guilty 
of no less than high treason. For the common- 
wealth of the Jews, different in that from all 
otbers, was an absolute theocracy ; nor was there, 
or coufct *Kere be, any <fieroice between that 
cxDmmonweaith and the Church. The kws es- 
tabfisbed ttee ooppaemng ifee 



Invisible Deity were the civil laws of that people 
and a part of their political government, in which 
God Himself was the legislator. Now, if any one 
can shew me where there is a commonwealth at 
this time, constituted upon that foundation, I 
will acknowledge that the ecclesiastical laws do 
there unavoidably become a part of the civil, 
and that the subjects of that government both 
may and ought to be kept in strict conformity 
with that Church by the civil power. But there 
is absolutely no such thing under the Gospel as 
a Christian commonwealth. There are, indeed, 
many cities and kingdoms that have embraced 
the faith of Christ, but they have retained their 
ancient form of government, with which the law 
of Christ hath not at all meddled. He, indeed, 
hath taught men how, by faith and good works, 
they may obtain eternal life; but He instituted 
no commonwealth. He prescribed unto His fol- 
lowers no new and peculiar form of government, 
nor put He the sword into any magistrate's hand, 
with commission to make use of it in forcing men 
to forsake their former religion and receive His. 
Secondly, foreigners and such as were stran- 
gers to the commonwealth of Israel were not 
compelled by force to observe the rites of the 
Mosaical law; but, on the contrary, in the very 
same place where it is ordered that an Israelite 
that was an idolater should be put to death, 1 
there it is provided that strangers should not be 
vexed nor oppressed. I confess that the seven 
nations that possessed the land which was prom- 
ised to the Israelites were utterly to be cut off; 
but this was not singly because they were idola- 
ters. For if that had been the reason, why were 
the Moabites and other nations to be spared? 
No: the reason is this. God being in a peculiar 
manner the King of the Jews, He could not suf- 
fer the adoration of any other deity (which was 
properly an act of high treason against Him- 
self) in the land of Canaan, which was His king- 
dom. For such a manifest revolt could no ways 
consist with His dominion, which was perfectly 
political in that country. All idolatry was, there- 
fore, to be rooted out of the bounds of His king- 
dom because it was an acknowledgment of an- 
other god, that is to say, another king, against the 
laws of Empire. The inhabitants were also to be 
driven out, that the entire possession of the land 
might be given to the Israelites. And for the like 
reason the Emims and the Horims were driven 
out of their countries by the children of Esau 
and Lot; and their lands, upon the same grounds, 
given by God to the invaders. 1 But, though all 

1 Exod. 22. 20, 21 ? 

a. 



A LETTER CONCERNING TOLERATION 



idolatry was thus rooted out of the land of Ca- 
naan, yet every idolater was not brought to exe- 
cution. The whole family of Rahab, the whole 
nation of the Gibeonites, articled with Joshua, 
and were allowed by treaty; and there were many 
captives amongst the Jews who were idolaters. 
David and Solomon subdued many countries 
without the confines of the Land of Promise and 
carried their conquests as far as Euphrates. 
Amongst so many captives taken, so many na- 
tions reduced under their obedience, we find not 
one man forced into the Jewish religion and the 
worship of the true God and punished for idola- 
try, though all of them were certainly guilty of 
it. If any one, indeed, becoming a proselyte, de- 
sired to be made a denizen of their common- 
wealth, he was obliged to submit to their laws; 
that is, to embrace their religion. But this he did 
willingly, on his own accord, not by constraint. 
He did not unwillingly submit, to show his obe- 
dience, but he sought and solicited for it as a 
privilege. And, as soon as he was admitted, he 
became subject to the laws of the commonwealth, 
by which all idolatry was forbidden within the 
borders of the land of Canaan. But that law (as 
I have said) did not reach to any of those re- 
gions, however subjected unto the Jews, that 
were situated without those bounds. 

Thus far concerning outward worship. Let us 
now consider articles of faith. 

The articles of religion are some of them prac- 
tical and some speculative. Now, though both 
sorts consist in the knowledge of truth, yet these 
terminate simply in the understanding, those in- 
fluence the will and manners. Speculative opin- 
ions, therefore, and articles of faith (as they are 
called) which are required only to be believed, 
cannot be imposed on any Church by the law 
of the land. For it is absurd that things should 
be enjoined by laws which are not in men's 
power to perform. And to believe this or that to 
be true does not depend upon our will. But of 
this enough has been said already. "But," will 
some say; "let men at least profess that they be- 
lieve." A sweet religion, indeed, that obliges 
men to dissemble and tell lies, both to God and 
man, for the salvation of their souls! If the 
magistrate thinks to save men thus, he seems to 
understand little of the way of salvation. And if 
he does it not in order to save them, why is he 
so solicitous about the articles of faith as to en- 
act them by a law? 

Further, the magistrate ought not to forbid 
the preaching or professing of any speculative 
opinions in any Church because they have no 
manner of relation to the civil rights of the sub- 



jects. If a Roman Catholic believe that to be 
really the body of Christ which another man 
calls bread, he does no injury thereby to his 
neighbour. If ajew do not believe the New Test- 
ament to be the Word of God, he does not there- 
by alter anything in men's civil rights. If a hea- 
then doubt of both Testaments, he is not there- 
fore to be punished as a pernicious citizen. The 
power of tiie magistrate and the estates of the 
people may be equally secure whether any man 
believe these things or no. I readily grant that 
these opinions are false and absurd. But the bus- 
iness of laws is not to provide for the truth of 
opinions, but for the safety and security of the 
commonwealth and of every particular man's 
goods and person. And so it ought to be. For the 
truth certainly would do well enough if she were 
once left to shift for herself. She seldom has re- 
ceived and, I fear, never will receive much as- 
sistance from the power of great men, to whom 
she is but rarely known and more rarely wel- 
come. She is not taught by laws, nor has she any 
need of force to procure her entrance into the 
minds of men. Errors, indeed, prevail by the as- 
sistance of foreign and borrowed succours. But if 
Truth makes not her way into the understand- 
ing by her own light, she will be but the weaker 
for any borrowed force violence can add to her. 
Thus much for speculative opinions. Let us now 
proceed to practical ones. 

A good life, in which consist not the least part 
of religion and true piety, concerns also the civil 
government; and in it lies the safety both of 
men's souls and of the commonwealth. Moral 
actions belong, therefore, to the jurisdiction both 
of the outward and inward court; both of the 
civil and domestic governor; I mean both of the 
magistrate and conscience. Here, therefore, is 
great danger, lest one of these jurisdictions in- 
trench upon the other, and discord arise be- 
tween the keeper of the public peace and the 
overseers of souls. But if what has been already 
said concerning the limits of both these govern- 
ments be rightlyconsidered, itwill easilyremove 
all difficulty in this matter. 

Every man has an immortal soul, capable of 
eternal happiness or misery; whose happiness 
depending upon his believing and doing those 
things in this life which are necessary to the ob- 
taining of God's favour, and are prescribed by 
God to that end. It follows from thence, first, 
that the observance of these things is the highest 
obligation that lies upon mankind and that our 
utmost care, application, and diligence ought to 
be exercised in the search and performance of 
them; because there is nothing in this world that 



i6 

is of any consideration in comparison with eter- 
nity. Secondly, that seeing one man does not vi- 
olate the right of another by his erroneous opin- 
ions and undue manner of worship, nor is his 
perdition any prejudice to another man's affairs, 
therefore, the care of each man's salvation be- 
longs only to himself. But I would not have this 
understood as if I meant hereby to condemn all 
charitable admonitions and affectionate endeav- 
ours to reduce men from errors, which are in- 
deed the greatest duty of a Christian. Any one 
may employ as many exhortations and argu- 
ments as he pleases, towards the promoting of 
another man's salvation. But all force and com- 
pulsion are to be forborne. Nothing is to be done 
imperiously. Nobody is obliged in that matter 
to yield obedience unto the admonitions or in- 
junctions of another, further than he himself is 
persuaded. Every man in that has the supreme 
and absolute authority of judging for himself. 
And the reason is because nobody else is con- 
cerned in it, nor can receive any prejudice from 
his conduct therein. 

But besides their souls, which are immortal, 
men have also their temporal lives here upon 
earth; the state whereof being frail and fleeting, 
and the duration uncertain, they have need of 
several outward conveniences to the support 
thereof, which are to be procured or preserved 
by pains and industry. For those things that are 
necessary to the comfortable support of our lives 
are not the spontaneous products of nature, nor 
do offer themselves fit and prepared for our use. 
This part, therefore, draws on another care and 
necessarily gives another employment. But the 
pravity of mankind being such that they had 
rather injuriously prey upon the fruits of other 
men's labours than take pains to provide for 
themselves, the necessity of preserving men in 
the possession of what honest industry* has al- 
ready acquired and also of preserving their lib- 
erty and strength, whereby they may acquire 
what they farther want, obliges men to enter in- 
to society with one another, that by mutual as- 
sistance and joint force they may secure unto 
each other their properties, in the things that 
contribute to the comfort and happiness of this 
life, kaving in the meanwhile to every man the 
care of his dwn eternal happiness, the attain- 
ment whereof can neither be facilitated by anoth- 
er man's industry, nor can the loss of it turn to 
another man's prejudice, nor the hope of it be 
forced from him by any external violence. But, 
ibrasoaisch as men thus entering into societies, 
grom&led upon their mutual compacts of assis- 
tasace fbr &&< tfdSeufce of 'tiktiif f&ipfcral gosds, 



JOHN LOCKE 



may, nevertheless, be deprived of them, either 
by the rapine and fraud of their fellow citizens, 
or by the hostile violence of foreigners, the rem- 
edy of this evil consists in arms, riches, and mul- 
titude of citizens; the remedy of the other in 
laws; and the care of all things relating both to 
one and the other is committed by the society to 
the civil magistrate. This is the original, this is 
the use, and these are the bounds of the legisla- 
tive (which is the supreme) power in every com- 
monwealth. I mean that provision may be made 
for the security of each man's private posses- 
sions; for the peace, riches, and public commod- 
ities of the whole people; and, as much as possi- 
ble, for the increase of their inward strength 
against foreign invasions. 

These things being thus explained, it is easy 
to understand to what end the legislative power 
ought to be directed and by what measures reg- 
ulated; and that is the temporal good and out- 
ward prosperity of the society; which is the sole 
reason of men's entering into society, and the 
only thing they seek and aim at in it. And it is 
also evident what liberty remains to men in ref- 
erence to their eternal salvation, and that is that 
every one should do what he in his conscience is 
persuaded to be acceptable to the Almighty, on 
whose good pleasure and acceptance depends 
their eternal happiness. For obedience is due, in 
the first place, to God and, afterwards to the laws. 

But some may ask: "What if the magistrate 
should enjoin anything by his authority that ap- 
pears unlawful to the conscience of a private 
person?" I answer that, if government be faith- 
fully administered and the counsels of the mag- 
istrates be indeed directed to the public good, 
this will seldom happen. But if, perhaps, it do so 
fall out, I say, that such a private person is to 
abstain from the action that he judges unlawful; 
and he is to undergo the punishment which it is 
not unlawful for him to bear. For the private 
judgement of any person concerning a law en- 
acted in political matters, for the public good, 
does not take away the obligation of that law, 
nor deserve a dispensation. But if the law, in- 
deed, be concerning things that lie not within 
the verge of the magistrate's authority (as, for 
example, that the people, or any party amongst 
them, should be compelled to embrace a strange 
religion, and join in the worship and ceremo- 
nies of another Church), men are not in these 
cases obliged by that law, against their con- 
sciences. For the political society is instituted for 
no other end, but only to secure every man's 
possession of the things of this life. The care of 
each man's soul and of the things of heaven, 



A LETTER CONCERNING TOLERATION 



which neither does belong to the commonwealth 
nor can be subjected to it, is left entirely to every 
man's self. Thus the safeguard of men's lives and 
of the things that belong unto this life is the busi- 
ness of the commonwealth; and the preserving 
of those things unto their owners is the duty of 
the magistrate . And therefore the magistrate can- 
not take away these worldly things from this 
man or party and give them to that; nor change 
propriety amongst fellow subjects (no not even 
by a law), for a cause that has no relation to the 
end of civil government, I mean for their reli- 
gion, which whether it be true or false does no 
prejudice to the worldly concerns of their fellow 
subjects, which are the things that only belong 
unto the care of the commonwealth. 

But what if the magistrate believe such a law 
as this to be for the public good? I answer: As 
the private judgement of any particular person, 
if erroneous, does not exempt him from the ob- 
ligation of law, so the private judgement (as I 
may call it) of the magistrate does not give him 
any new right of imposing laws upon his sub- 
jects, which neither was in the constitution of 
the government granted him, nor ever was in 
the power of the people to grant, much less if he 
make it his business to enrich and advance his 
followers and fellow-sectaries with the spoils of 
others. But what if the magistrate believe that 
he has a right to make such laws and that they 
are for the public good, and his subjects believe 
the contrary? Who shall be judge between them? 
I answer: God alone. For there is no judge upon 
earth between the supreme magistrate and the 
people. God, I say, is the only Judge in this case, 
who will retribute unto every one at the last day 
according to his deserts; that is, according to his 
sincerity and uprightness in endeavouring to 
promote piety, and the public weal, and peace 
of mankind. But what shall be done in the mean- 
while? I answer: The principal and chief care of 
every one ought to be of his own soul first, and, 
in the next place, of the public peace; though 
yet there are very few will think it is peace there, 
where they see all laid waste. 

There are two sorts of contests amongst men, 
the one managed by law, the other by force; and 
these are of that nature that where the one ends, 
the other always begins. But it is not my busi- 
ness to inquire into the power of the magistrate 
in the different constitutions of nations. I only 
know what usually happens where controversies 
arise without a judge to determine them. You 
will say, then, the magistrate being the stronger 
will have his will and carry his point. Without 
doubt; but the question is not here concerning 



the doubtfulness of the event, but the rule of 
right. 

But to come to particulars. I say, first, no 
opinions contrary to human society, or to those 
moral rules which are necessary to the preserva- 
tion of civil society, are to be tolerated by the 
magistrate. But of these, indeed, examples in 
any Church are rare. For no sect can easily ar- 
rive to such a degree of madness as that it should 
think fit to teach, for doctrines of religion, such 
things as manifestly undermine the foundations 
of society and are, therefore, condemned by the 
judgement of all mankind; because their own 
interest, peace, reputation, everything would be 
thereby endangered. 

Another more secret evil, but more danger- 
ous to the commonwealth, is when men arro- 
gate to themselves, and to those of their own 
sect, some peculiar prerogative covered over 
with a specious show of deceitful words, but in 
effect opposite to the civil right of the commun- 
ity. For example: we cannot find any sect that 
teaches, expressly and openly, that men are not 
obliged to keep their promise; that princes may 
be dethroned by those that differ from them in 
religion; or that the dominion of all things be- 
longs only to themselves. For these things, pro- 
posed thus nakedly and plainly, would soon draw 
on them the eye and hand of the magistrate and 
awaken all the care of the commonwealth to a 
watchfulness against the spreading of so danger- 
ous an evil. But, nevertheless, we find those that 
say the same things in other words. What else 
do they mean who teach that faith is not to be 
kept with heretics? Their meaning, forsooth, is 
that the privilege of breaking faith belongs unto 
themselves; for they declare all that are not of 
their communion to be heretics, or at least may 
declare them so whensoever they think fit. What 
can be the meaning of their asserting that kings 
excommunicated forfeit their crowns and king- 
doms? It is evident that they thereby arrogate 
unto themselves the power of deposing kings, 
because they challenge the power of excommu- 
nication, as the peculiar right of their hierarchy. 
That dominion is founded in grace is also an as- 
sertion by which those that maintain it do plain- 
ly lay claim to the possession of all things. For 
they are not so wanting to themselves as not to 
believe, or at least as not to profess themselves 
to be the truly pious and faithful. These, there- 
fore, and the like, who attribute unto the faith- 
. ful, religious, and orthodox, that is, in plain 
terms, unto themselves, any peculiar privilege or 
power above other mortals, in civil concern- 
ments; or who upon pretence of religion dochal- 



i8 

lenge any manner of authority over such as are 
not associated with them in their ecclesiastical 
communion, I say these have no right to be tol- 
erated by the magistrate; as neither those that 
will not own and teach the duty of tolerating all 
men in matters of mere religion. For what do all 
these and the like doctrines signify, but that they 
may and are ready upon any occasion to seize 
the Government and possess themselves of the 
estates and fortunes of their fellow subjects; and 
that they only ask leave to be tolerated by the 
magistrate so long until they find themselves 
strong enough to effect it? 

Again: That Church can have no right to be 
tolerated by the magistrate which is constituted 
upon such a bottom that all those who enter into 
it do thereby ipso facto deliver themselves up to 
the protection and service of another prince. 
For by this means the magistrate would give 
way to the settling of a foreign jurisdiction in his 
own country and suffer his own people to be 
listed, as it were, for soldiers against his own Gov- 
ernment. Nor does the frivolous and fallacious 
distinction between the Court and the Church 
afford any remedy to this inconvenience; espe- 
cially when both the one and the other are equally 
subject to the absolute authority of the same per- 
son, who has not only power to persuade the 
members of his Church to whatsoever he lists, 
either as purely religious, or in order thereunto, 
but can also enjoin it them on pain of eternal 
fire. It is ridiculous for any one to profess him- 
self to be a Mahometan only in his religion, but 
in everything else a faithful subject to a Chris- 
tian magistrate, whilst at the same time he ac- 
knowledges himself bound to yield blind obedi- 
ence to the Mufti of Constantinople, who him- 
self is entirely obedient to the Ottoman Emper- 
or and frames the feigned oracles of that religion 
according to his pleasure. But this Mahometan 
living amongst Christians would yet more ap- 
parently renounce their government if he ac- 
knowledged the same person to be head of his 
Church who is the supreme magistrate in the 
state. 

Lastly, those are not at all to be tolerated who 
deny the being of a God. Promises, covenants, 
and oaths, which are the bonds of human so- 
ciety, can have no hold upon an atheist. The 
takiijgawayof God, though but even in thought, 
dissolves afl; besides also, those that by their 
atheism undermine and destroy all religion, can 
have Hop^doaceof religion whereupon to chal- 
lenge tibe privilege of a tokaratioa As for other 
practical piiai0ps tbotigb :aak3tabitely free 



JOHN LOCKE 



domination over others, or civil impunity to the 
Church in which they are taught, there can be 
no reason why they should not be tolerated. 

It remains that I say something concerning 
those assemblies which, being vulgarly called and 
perhaps having sometimes been conventicles and 
nurseries of factions and seditions, are thought 
to afford the strongest matter of objection against 
this doctrine of toleration. But this has not hap- 
pened by anything peculiar unto the genius of 
such assemblies, but by the unhappy circum- 
stances of an oppressed or ill-settled liberty. 
These accusations would soon cease if the law of 
toleration were once so settled that all Churches 
were obliged to lay down toleration as the foun- 
dation of their own liberty, and teach that lib- 
erty of conscience is every man's natural right, 
equally belonging to dissenters as to themselves; 
and that nobody ought to be compelled hi mat- 
ters of religion either by law or force. The estab- 
lishment of this one tiling would take away all 
ground of complaints and tumults upon account 
of conscience; and these causes of discontents 
and animosities being once removed, there would 
remain nothing in these assemblies that were 
not more peaceable and less apt to produce dis- 
turbance of state than in any other meetings 
whatsoever. But let us examine particularly the 
heads of these accusations. 

You will say that assemblies and meetings en- 
danger the public peace and threaten the com- 
monwealth. I answer: If this be so, why are there 
daily such numerous meetings in markets and 
Courts of Judicature? Why are crowds upon the 
Exchange and a concourse of people in cities suf- 
fered? You will reply: "Those are civil assem- 
blies, but these we object against are ecclesiasti- 
cal." I answer: It is a likely thing, indeed, that 
such assemblies as are altogether remote from 
civil affairs should be most apt to embroil them. 
Oh, but civil assemblies are composed of men 
that differ from one another in matters of re- 
ligion, but these ecclesiastical meetings are of 
persons that are all of one opinion. As if an agree- 
ment in matters of religion were in effect a con- 
spiracy against the commonwealth; or as if men 
would not be so much the more warmly unani- 
mous in religion the less liberty they had of as- 
sembling. But it will be urged still that civil as- 
semblies are open and free for any one to enter 
into, whereas religious conventicles are more pri- 
vate and thereby give opportunity to clandestine 
machinations, I answer that this is not strictly 
true, for many civil assemblies are not open to 
everyone. Aud if soroa religious meetings be pri- 
$&ft who are *bep,(J fceseeck you) that are &> be 



A LETTER CONCERNING TOLERATION 



blamed for it, those that desire, or those that for- 
bid their being public ! Again, you will say that re- 
ligious communion does exceedingly unite men's 
minds and affections to one another and is there- 
fore the more dangerous. But if this be so, why 
is not the magistrate afraid of his own Church; 
and why does he not forbid their assemblies as 
things dangerous to his Government? You will 
say because he himself is a part and even the head 
of them. As if he were not also a part of the com- 
monwealth, and the head of the whole people ! 
Let us therefore deal plainly. The magistrate 
is afraid of other Churches, but not of his own, 
because he is kind and favourable to the one, but 
severe and cruel to the other. These he treats 
like children, and indulges them even to wan- 
tonness. Those he uses as slaves and, how blame- 
lessly soever they demean themselves, recom- 
penses them no otherwise than by galleys, pris- 
ons, confiscations, and death. These he cherishes 
and defends; those he continually scourges and 
oppresses. Let him turn the tables. Or let those 
dissenters enjoy but the same privileges in civils 
as his other subjects, and he will quickly find that 
these religious meetings will be no longer dan- 
gerous. For if men enter into seditious conspira- 
cies, it is not religion inspires them to it in their 
meetings, but their sufferings and oppressions 
that make them willing to ease themselves. Just 
and moderate governments are everywhere 
quiet, everywhere safe; but oppression raises fer- 
ments and makes men struggle to cast off an un- 
easy and tyrannical yoke. I know that seditions 
are very frequently raised upon pretence of reli- 
gion, but it is as true that for religion subjects are 
frequently ill treated and live miserably. Believe 
me, the stirs that are made proceed not from 
any peculiar temper of this or that Church or 
religious society, but from the common dispo- 
sition of all mankind, who when they groan un- 
der any heavy burthen endeavour naturally to 
shake off the yoke that galls their necks. Sup- 
pose this business of religion were let alone, and 
that there were some other distinction made be- 
tween men and men upon account of their dif- 
ferent complexions, shapes, and features, so that 
those who have black hair (for example) or grey 
eyes should not enjoy the same privileges as other 
citizens ; that they should not be permitted either 
to buy or sell, or live by their callings; that par- 
ents should not have the government and.educa- 
tion of their own children; that all should either 
be excluded from the benefit of the laws, or 
meet with partial judges; can it be doubted but 
these persons, thus distinguished from others by 
the colour of their hair and eyes, and united to- 



gether by one common persecution, would be 
as dangerous to the magistrate as any others 
that had associated themselves merely upon the 
account of religion? Some enter into company 
for trade and profit, others for want of business 
have their clubs for claret. Neighbourhood joins 
some and religion others. But there is only one 
thing which gathers people into seditious com- 
motions, and that is oppression. 

You will say "What, will you have people to 
meet at divine service against the magistrate's 
will?" I answer: Why, I pray, against his will? 
Is it not both lawful and necessary that they 
should meet? Against his will, do you say? That 
is what I complain of; that is the very root of all 
the mischief. Why are assemblies less sufferable 
in a church than in a theatre or market? Those 
that meet there are not either more vicious or 
more turbulent than those that meet elsewhere. 
The business in that is that they are ill used, and 
therefore they are not to be suffered. Take away 
the partiality that is used towards them in mat- 
ters of common right; change the laws, take away 
the penalties unto which they are subjected, and 
all things will immediately become safe and 
peaceable; nay, those that are averse to the reli- 
gion of the magistrate will think themselves so 
much the more bound to maintain the peace of 
the commonwealth as their condition is better 
in that place than elsewhere; and all the several 
separate congregations, like so many guardians 
of the public peace, will watch one another, that 
nothing may be innovated or changed in the form 
of the government, because they can hope for 
nothing better than what they already enjoy- 
that is, an equal condition with their fellow-sub- 
jects under a just and moderate government Now 
if that Church which agrees in religion with the 
prince be esteemed the chief support of any civil 
government, and that for no other reason (as 
has already been shown) than because the prince 
is kind and the 1 laws are favourable to it, how 
much greater will be the security of government 
where all good subjects, of whatsoever Church 
they be, without any distinction upon account 
of religion, enjoying the same favour of the prince 
and the same benefit of the laws, shall become 
the common support and guard of it, and where 
none will have any occasion to fear the severity 
of the laws but those that do injuries to their 
neighbours and offend against the civil peace? 

That we may draw towards a conclusion. The 
sum of all we drive at is that every man may en- 
joy the same rights that are granted to others. Is 
it permitted to worship God in the Roman man- 
ner? Let it be permitted to do it in the Geneva 



20 

form also. Is it permitted to speak Latin in the 
market-place? Let those that have a mind to it 
be permitted to do it also in the Church. Is it 
lawful for any man in his own house to kneel, 
stand, sit, or use any other posture; and to clothe 
himself in white or black, in short or in long gar- 
ments? Let it not be made unlawful to eat bread, 
drink wine, or wash with water in the church. 
In a word, whatsoever things are left free by law 
in the common occasions of life, let them remain 
free unto every Church in divine worship. Let 
no man's life, or body, or house, or estate, suffer 
any manner of prejudice upon these accounts. 
Can you allow of the Presbyterian discipline? 
Why should not the Episcopal also have what 
they like? Ecclesiastical authority, whether it be 
administered by the hands of a single person or 
many, is everywhere the same; and neither has 
any jurisdiction in things civil, nor any manner 
of power of compulsion, nor anything at all to 
do with riches and revenues. 
*f Ecclesiastical assemblies and sermons are jus- 
tified by daily experience and public allowance. 
These are allowed to people of some one persua- 
sion; why not to all? If anything pass in a religi- 
ous meeting seditiously and contrary to the pub- 
lic peace, it is to be punished in the same man- 
ner and no otherwise than as if it had happened 
in a fair or market. These meetings ought not to 
be sanctuaries for factious and flagitious fellows. 
Nor ought it to be less lawful for men to meet in 
churches than in halls; nor are one part of the 
subjects to be esteemed more blamable for their 
meeting together than others. Every one is to be 
accountable for his own actions, and no man is 
to be laid under a suspicion or odium for the 
fault of another. Those that are seditious, mur- 
derers, thieves, robbers, adulterers, slanderers, 
etc., of whatsoever Church, whether national or 
not, ought to be punished and suppressed. But 
those whose doctrine is peaceable and whose 
manners are pure and blameless ought to be up- 
on equal terms with their fellow-subjects. Thus 
if solemn assemblies, observations of festivals, 
public worship be permitted to any one sort of 
professors, all these things ought to be permitted 
to the Presbyterians, Independents, Anabap- 
tists, Arminians, Quakers, and others, with the 
same liberty. Nay, if we may openly speak the 
truth, and as becomes one man to another, 
neither Pagan nor Mahometan, nor Jew, ought 
to be excluded from the civil rights of the com- 
monwealth because of his religion. The Gospel 
commands no such thing. The Church which 
"judged Bdt those tfaaVare \*ithouf l wants it 



JOHN LOCKE 



not. And the commonwealth, which embraces 
indifferently all men that are honest, peaceable, 
and industrious, requires it not. Shall we suffer 
a Pagan to deal and trade with us, and shall we 
not suffer him to pray unto and worship God? 
If we allow the Jews to have private houses and 
dwellings amongst us, why should we not allow 
them to have synagogues? Is their doctrine more 
false, their worship more abominable, or is the 
civil peace more endangered by their meeting in 
public than in their private houses? But if these 
things may be granted to Jews and Pagans, sure- 
ly the condition of any Christians ought not to 
be worse than theirs in a Christian common- 
wealth. 

You will say, perhaps: "Yes, it ought to be; 
because they are more inclinable to factions, 
tumults, and civil wars." I answer: Is this the 
fault of the Christian religion? If it be so, truly 
the Christian religion is the worst of all reli- 
gions and ought neither to be embraced by any 
particular person, nor tolerated by any com- 
monwealth. For if this be the genius, this the 
nature of the Christian religion, to be turbulent 
and destructive to the civil peace, that Church 
itself which the magistrate indulges will not al- 
ways be innocent. But far be it from us to say 
any such thing of that religion which carries 
the greatest opposition to covetousness, ambi- 
tion, discord, contention, and all manner of in- 
ordinate desires, and is the most modest and 
peaceable religion that ever was. We must, there- 
fore, seek another cause of those evils that are 
charged upon religion. And, if we consider right, 
we shall find it to consist wholly in the subject 
that I am treating of. It is not the diversity of 
opinions (which cannot be avoided), but the re- 
fusal of toleration to those that are of different 
opinions (which might have been granted), that 
has produced all the bustles and wars that have 
been in the Christian world upon account of re- 
ligion. The heads and leaders of the Church, 
moved by avarice and insatiable desire of domin- 
ion, making use of the immoderate ambition of 
magistrates and the credulous superstition of the 
giddy multitude, have incensed and animated 
them against those that dissent from themselves, 
by preaching unto them, contrary to the laws of 
the Gospel and to the precepts of charity, that 
schismatics and heretics are to be outed of their 
possessions and destroyed. And thus have they 
mixed together and confounded two things that 
are in themselves most different, the Church 
and the commonwealth. Now as it is very diffi- 
cult foremen patiently to suffer themselves to be 
stripped of the goods which they have got by 



A LETTER CONCERNING TOLERATION 



their honest industry, and, contrary to all the 
laws of equity, both human and divine, to be 
delivered up for a prey to other men's violence 
and rapine; especially when they are otherwise 
altogether blameless; and that the occasion for 
which they are thus treated does not at all be- 
long to the jurisdiction of the magistrate, but 
entirely to the conscience of every particular man 
for the conduct of which he is accountable to 
God only; what else can be expected but that 
these men, growing weary of the evils under 
which they labour, should in the end think it 
lawful for them to resist force with force, and to 
defend their natural rights (which are not for- 
feitable upon account of religion) with arms as 
well as they can? That this has been hitherto the 
ordinary course of things is abundantly evident 
in history, and that it will continue to be so here- 
after is but too apparent in reason. It cannot in- 
deed, be otherwise so long as the principle of 
persecution for religion shall prevail, as it has 
done hitherto, with magistrate and people, and 
so long as those that ought to be the preachers 
of peace and concord shall continue with all 
their art and strength to excite men to arms and 
sound the trumpet of war. But that magistrates 
should thus suffer these incendiaries and distur- 
bers of the public peace might justly be won- 
dered at if it did not appear that they have been 
invited by them unto a participation of the spoil, 
and have therefore thought fit to make use of 
their covetousness and pride as means whereby 
to increase their own power. For who does not 
see that these good men are, indeed, more min- 
isters of the government than ministers of the 
Gospel and that, by flattering the ambition and 
favouring the dominion of princes and men in 
authority, they endeavour with all their might 
to promote that tyranny in the commonwealth 
which otherwise they should not be able to es- 
tablish in the Church? This is the unhappy agree- 
ment that we see between the Church and State. 
Whereas if each of them would contain itself 
within its own bounds the one attending to 
the worldly welfare of the commonwealth, the 
other to the salvation of souls it is impossible 
that any discord should ever have happened be- 
tween them. Sedpudet hac opprobria. etc. God Al- 
mighty grant, I beseech Him, that the gospel of 
peace may at length be preached, and that civil 
magistrates, growing more careful to conform 
their own consciences to the law of God and less 
solicitous about the binding of other men's con- 
sciences by human laws, may, like fathers of their 
country, direct all their counsels and endeavours 
to promote universally the civil welfare of all 



21 

their children, except only of such as are arro- 
gant, ungovernable, and injurious to their bre- 
thren; and that all ecclesiastical men, who boast 
themselves to be the successors of the Apostles, 
walking peaceably and modestly in the Apos- 
tles' steps, without intermeddling with State Af- 
fairs, may apply themselves wholly to promote 
the salvation of souls. 

FAREWELL. 

PERHAPS it may not be amiss to add a few 
things concerning heresy and schism. A Turk is 
not, nor can be, either heretic or schismatic to a 
Christian; and if any man fall off from the Chris- 
tian faith to Mahometism, he does not thereby 
become a heretic or schismatic, but an apostate 
and an infidel. This nobody doubts of; and 
by this it appears that men of different reli- 
gions cannot be heretics or schismatics to one 
another. 

We are to inquire, therefore, what men are of 
the same religion. Concerning which it is mani- 
fest that those who have one and the same rule 
of faith and worship are of the same religion; 
and those who have not the same rule of faith 
and worship are of different religions. For since 
all things that belong unto that religion are con- 
tained in that rule, it follows necessarily that 
those who agree in one rule are of one and the 
same religion, and vice versd. Thus Turks and 
Christians are of different religions, because these 
take the Holy Scriptures to be the rule of their 
religion, and those the Alcoran. And for the 
same reason there may be different religions also 
even amongst Christians. The Papists and Luth- 
erans, though both of them profess faith in Christ 
and are therefore called Christians, yet are not 
both of the same religion, because these ac- 
knowledge nothing but the Holy Scriptures to be 
the rule and foundation of their religion, those 
take in also traditions and the decrees of Popes 
and of these together make the rule of their reli- 
gion; and thus the Christians of St. John (as they 
are called) and the Christians of Geneva are of 
different religions, because these also take only 
the Scriptures, and those I know not what tra- 
ditions, for the rule of their religion. 

This being settled, it follows, first, that heresy 
is a separation made in ecclesiastical commun- 
ion between men of the same religion for some 
opinions no way contained in the rule itself; and, 
secondly, that amongst those who acknowledge 
nothing but the Holy Scriptures to be their rule 
of faith, heresy is a separation made in their 
Christian communion for opinions not con- 
tained in the express words of Scripture. Now 



CONTENTS: 

CONCERNING CIVIL GOVERNMENT, 
SECOND ESSAY 



BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE ix 

i. OF POLITICAL POWER -^ 25 

H. OF THE STATE OF NATURE 25 

ra. OF THE STATE OF WAR 28 

rv. OF SLAVERY 29 

v. OF PROPERTY ^ 30 

vi. OF PATERNAL POWER 36 

vii. OF POLITICAL OR CIVIL SOCIETY 42 

vm. OF THE BEGINNING OF POLITICAL 

SOCIETIES & 46 

ix. OF THE ENDS OF POLITICAL SOCIETY AND 

GOVERNMENT 53 

x. OF THE FORMS OF A COMMONWEALTH ^ 55 
xi. OF THE EXTENT OF THE LEGISLATIVE ^" 

POWER. 55 

xn. THE LEGISLATIVE, EXECUTIVE, AND FED- 
ERATIVE POWER OF THE COMMON- 
WEALTH &' 58 
xm. OF THE SUBORDINATION OF THE POWERS 

OF THE COMMONWEALTH ^ 59 

xrv. OF PREROGATIVE ^ 62 

xv. OF PATERNAL, POLITICAL AND DESPOTI-/ 

GAL POWER, CONSIDERED TOGETHER 64 

xvi. OF CONQUEST *" 65 

xvn. OF USURPATION f 7 

xvm. OF TYRANNY "" 7 1 

xix. OF THE DISSOLUTION OF GOVERNMENT * 73 



AN ESS AT 

CONCERNING THE TRUE ORIGINAL EXTENT 
AND END OF CIVIL GOVERNMENT 



Chap. I. Of Political Power 

i. It having been shown in the foregoing dis- 
course: 1 

Firstly. That Adam had not, either by natural 
right of fatherhood or by positive donation from 
God, any such authority over his children, nor 
dominion over the world, as is pretended. 

Secondly. That if he had, his heirs yet had no 
right to it. 

Thirdly. That if his heirs had, there being no 
law of Nature nor positive law of God that de- 
termines which is the right heir in all cases that 
may arise, the right of succession, and conse- 
quently of bearing rule, could not have been 
certainly determined. 

Fourthly. That if even that had been deter- 
mined, yet the knowledge of which is the eldest 
line of Adam's posterity being so long since ut- 
terly lost, that in the races of mankind and fami- 
lies of the world, there remains not to one above 
another the least pretence to be the eldest house, 
and to have the right of inheritance. 

All these promises having, as I think, been 
clearly made out, it is impossible that the rulers 
now on earth should make any benefit, or derive 
any the least shadow of authority from that 
which is held to be the fountain of all power, 
"Adam's private dominion and paternal ju- 
risdiction"; so that he that will not give just 
occasion to think that 'all government in the 
world is the product only of force and violence, 
and that men live together by no other rules 
but that of beasts, where the strongest carries it, 
and so lay a foundation for perpetual disorder 
and mischief, tumult, sedition, and rebellion 
(things that the followers of that hypothesis 
so loudly cry out against), must of neces- 
sity find out another rise of government, an- 
other original of political power, and another 
way of designing and knowing the persons that 

l An Essay Concerning Certain False Principles. 



have it than what Sir Robert Filmer hath 
taught us. 

2. To this purpose, I think it may not be amiss 
to set down what I take to be political power. 
That the power of a magistrate over a subject 
may be distinguished from that of a father over 
his children, a master over his servant, a hus- 
band over his wife, and a lord over his slave. All 
which distinct powers happening sometimes to- 
gether in the same man, if he be considered un- 
der these different relations, it may help us to 
distinguish these powers one from another, and 
show the difference betwixt a ruler of a com- 
monwealth, a father of a family, and a captain . 
of a galley. 

3. Political power, then, I take to be a right 
of making laws, with penalties of death, and con- 
sequently all less penalties for the regulating and 
preserving of property, and of employing the 
force of the community in the execution of such 
laws, and in the defence of the commonwealth 
from foreign injury, and all this only for the 
public good. 

Chap. II. Of the State of Nature 

fl|. To understand political power aright, and de- 
rive it from its original, we must consider what 
estate all men are naturally in, and that is, a 
J state of perfect freedom to order their actions, 
i and dispose of their possessions and persons as 
they think fit, within the bounds of the law of' 
Nature, without asking leave or depending upon 
the will of any other man. ^ 

X state also of equality, wherein all the power 
and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having 
more than another, there being nothing more 
evident than that creatures of the same species 
and rank, promiscuously born to all the same 
advantages of Nature, and the use of the same 
faculties, should also be equal one amongst an- 
other, without subordination or subjection, un- 
less the lord and master of them all should, by 



26 



JOHN LOCKE 



any manifest declaration of his will, set one above 
another, and confer on him, by an evident and 
clear appointment, an undoubted right to do- 
minion and sovereignty. 

5. This equality of men by Nature, the judi- 
cious Hooker looks upon as so evident in itself, 
and beyond all question, that he makes it the 
foundation of that obligation to mutual love 
amongst men on which he builds the duties they 
owe one another, and from whence he derives 
the great maxims of justice and charity. His 
words are: 

"The like natural inducement hath brought 
men to know that it is no less their duty to love 
others than themselves, for seeing those things 
which are equal, must needs all have one meas- 
ure; if I cannot but wish to receive good, even 
as much at every man's hands, as any man can 
wish unto his own soul, how should I look to 
have any part of my desire herein satisfied, un- 
less myself be careful to satisfy the like desire, 
which is undoubtedly in other men weak, being 
of one and the same nature: to have anything 
offered them repugnant to this desire must needs, 
in all respects, grieve them as much as me; so 
that if I do harm, I must look to suffer, there be- 
ing no reason that others should show greater 
measure of love to me than they have by me 
showed unto them; my desire, therefore, to be 
loved of my equals in Nature, as much as pos- 
sible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty 
of bearing to themward fully the like affection. 
From which relation of equality between our- 
selves and them that are as ourselves, what sev- 
eral rules and canons natural reason hath drawn 
for direction of life no man is ignorant." (EccL 
Pol. i.) 1 

6. But though this be a state of liberty, yet it 
is not a state of licence; though man in that state 
have an uncontrollable liberty to dispose of his 
person or possessions, yet he has not liberty to 
destroy himself, or so much as any creature in 
his possession, but where some nobler use than 
its bare preservation calls for it. The state of Na- 
ture has a law of Nature to govern it, which 
obliges every one, and reason, which is that law, 
teaches all mankind who will but consult it, that 
being all equal and independent, no one ought 
to harm another in his life, health, liberty or pos- 
sessions; for men being all the workmanship of 
one omnipotent and infinitely wise Maker; all 
the servants of one sovereign Master, sent into 
the world by His order and about His business; 
they are His property, whose workmanship they 
are mad? gjflast during His^ not one another's 

,, Polity. 



pleasure. And, being furnished with like facul- 
ties, sharing all in one community of Nature, 
there cannot be supposed any such subordina- 
tion among us that may authorise us to destroy 
one another, as if we were made for one another's 
uses, as the inferior ranks of creatures are for 
ours. Every one as he is bound to preserve him- 
self, and not to quit his station wilfully, so by the 
like reason, when his own preservation comes 
not in competition, ought he as much as he can 
to preserve the rest of mankind, and not unless 
it be to do justice on an offender, take away or 
impair the life, or what tends to the preserva- 
tion of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods 
of another. 

7. And that all men may be restrained from 
invading others' rights, and from doing hurt to 
one another, and the law of Nature be observed, 
which willeth the peace and preservation of all 
mankind, the execution of the law of Nature is 
in that state put into every man's hands, where- 
by every one has a right to punish the transgres- 
sors of that law to such a degree as may hinder 
its violation. For the law of Nature would, as all 
other laws that concern men in this world, be in 
vain if there were nobody that in the state of Na- 
ture had a power to execute that law, and there- 
by preserve the innocent and restrain offenders; 
and if any one in the state of Nature may punish 
another for any evil he has done, every one may 
do so. For in that state of perfect equality, where 
naturally there is no superiority or jurisdiction 
of one over another, what any may do in prose- 
cution of that law, every one must needs have a 
right to do. 

8. And thus, in the state of Nature, one man 
comes by a power over another, but yet no ab- 
solute or arbitrary power to use a criminal, when 
he has got him in his hands, according to the 
passionate heats or boundless extravagancy of his 
own will, but only to retribute to him so far as 
calm reason and conscience dictate, what is pro- 
portionate to his transgression, which is so much 
as may serve for reparation and restraint. For 
these two are the only reasons why one man may 
lawfully do harm to another, which is that we 
call punishment. In transgressing the law of Na- 
ture, the offender declares himself to live by an- 
other rule than that of reason and common equi- 
ty, which is that measure God has set to the ac- 
tions of men for their mutual security, and so he 
becomes dangerous to mankind; the tie which is 
to secure them from injury and violence being 
slighted and broken by him, which being a tres- 
pass against the whole species, and the peace and 
safety of it, provided for by the law of Nature, 



CONCERNING CIVIL GOVERNMENT 



27 



every man upon this score, by the right he hath 
to preserve mankind in general, may restrain, or 
where it is necessary, destroy things noxious to 
them, and so may bring such evil on any one who 
hath transgressed that law, as may make him re- 
pent the doing of it, and thereby deter him, and, 
by his example, others from doing the like mis- 
chief. And in this case, and upon this ground, 
every man hath a right to punish the offender, 
and be executioner of the law of Nature. 

9. 1 doubt not but this will seem a very strange 
doctrine to some men; but before they condemn 
it, I desire them to resolve me by what right any 
prince or state can put to death or punish an alien 
for any crime he commits in their country? It is 
certain their laws, by virtue of any sanction they 
receive from the promulgated will of the legisla- 
ture, reach not a stranger. They speak not to him, 
nor, if they did, is he bound to hearken to them. 
The legislative authority by which they are in 
force over the subjects of that commonwealth 
hath no power over him. Those who have the su- 
preme power of making laws in England, France, 
or Holland are, to an Indian, but like the rest of 
the world men without authority. And there- 
fore, if by the law of Nature every man hath not 
a power to punish offences against it, as he so- 
berly .judges the case to require, I see not how 
the magistrates of any community can punish an 
alien of another country, since, in reference to 
him, they can have no more power than what 
every man naturally may have over another. 

10. Besides the crime which consists in violat- 
ing the laws, and varying from the right rule of 
reason, whereby a man so far becomes degener- 
ate, and declares himself to quit the principles 
of human nature and to be a noxious creature, 
there is commonly injury done, and some per- 
son or other, some other man, receives damage 
by his transgression; in which case, he who hath 
received any damage has (besides the right of 
punishment common to him, with other men) a 
particular right to seek reparation from him that 
hath done it. And any other person who finds it 
just may also join with him that is injured, and 
assist hirn in recovering from the offender so much 
as may make satisfaction for the harm he hath 
suffered. 

1 1. From these two distinct rights (the one of 
punishing the crime, for restraint and prevent- 
ing the like offence, which right of punishing is 
in everybody, the other of taking reparation, 
which belongs only to the injured party) comes 
it to pass that the magistrate, who by being mag- 
istrate hath the common right of punishing put 
into his hands, can often, where the public good 



demands not the execution of the law, remit the 
punishment of criminal offences by his own au- 
thority, but yet cannot remit the satisfaction due 
to any private man for the damage he has re- 
ceived. That he who hath suffered the damage 
has a right to demand in his own name, and he 
alone can remit. The damnified person has this 
power of appropriating to himself the goods or 
service of the offender by right of self-preserva- 
tion, as every man has a power to punish the 
crime to prevent its being committed again, by 
the right he has of preserving all mankind, and 
doing all reasonable things he can in order to 
that end. And thus it is that every man in the 
state of Nature has a power to kill a murderer, 
both to deter others from doing the like injury 
(which no reparation can compensate) by the 
example of the punishment that attends it from 
everybody, and also to secure men from the at- 
tempts of a criminal who, having renounced rea- 
son, the common rule and measure God hath 
given to mankind, hath, by the unjust violence 
and slaughter he hath committed upon one, de- 
clared war against all mankind, and therefore 
may be destroyed as a Jion or a tiger, one of those 
wild savage beasts with whom men can have no 
society nor security. And upon this is grounded 
that great law of Nature, "Whoso sheddeth man's 
blood, by man shall his blood be shed." And 
Cain was so fully convinced that every one had 
a right to destroy such a criminal, that, after the 
murder of his brother, he cries out, "Every one 
that findeth me shall slay me," so plain was it 
writ in the hearts of all mankind. 

1 2. By the same reason may a man in the state 
of Nature punish the lesser breaches of that law, 
it will, perhaps, be demanded, with death? I an- 
swer : Each transgression may be punished to that 
degree, and with so much severity, as will suf- 
fice to make it an ill bargain to the offender, give 
him cause to repent, and terrify others from do- 
ing the like. Every offence that can be commit- 
ted in the state of Nature may, in the state of Na- 
ture, be also punished equally, and as far forth, 
as it may, in a commonwealth. For though it 
would be beside my present purpose to enter here 
into the particulars of the law of Nature, or its 
measures of punishment, yet it is certain there is 
such a law, and that too as intelligible and plain 
to a rational creature and a studier of that law 
as the positive laws of commonwealths, nay, pos- 
sibly plainer; as much as reason is easier to be 
understood than the fancies and intricate con- 
trivances erf men, following contrary and hidden 
interests put into words; for truly so are a great 
part of the municipal laws of countries, which 



28 

are only so far right as they are founded on the 
law of Nature, by which they are to be regulat- 
ed and interpreted. 

1 3. To this strange doctrine viz., That in the 
state of Nature every one has the executive power 
of the law of Nature I doubt not but it will be 
objected that it is unreasonable for men to be 
judges in their own cases, that self-love will make 
men partial to themselves and their friends; and, 
on the other side, ill-nature, passion, and revenge 
will carry them too far in punishing others, and 
hence nothing but confusion and disorder will 
follow, and that therefore God hath certainly ap- 
pointed government to restrain the partiality and 
violence of men. I easily grant that civil govern- 
ment is the proper remedy for the inconveniences 
of the state of Nature, which must certainly be 
great where men may be judges in their own 
case, since it is easy to be imagined that he who 
was so unjust as to do his brother an injury will 
scarce be so just as to condemn himself for it. But 
I shall desire those who make this objection to 
remember that absolute monarchs are but men; 
and if government is to be the remedy of those 
evils which necessarily follow from men being 
judges in their own cases, and the state of Nature 
is therefore not to be endured, I desire to know 
what kind of government that is, and how much 
better it is than the state of Nature, where one 
man commanding a multitude has the liberty to 
be judge in his own case, and may do to all his 
subjects whatever he pleases without the least 
question or control of those who execute his pleas- 
ure? and in whatsoever he doth, whether led by 
reason, mistake, or passion, must be submitted 
to? which men in the state of Nature are not 
bound to do one to another. And if he that judges, 
judges amiss in his own or any other case, he is 
answerable for it to the rest of mankind. 

14. It is often asked as a mighty objection, 
where are, or ever were, there any men in such 
a state of Nature? To which it may suffice as an 
answer at present, that since all princes and rul- 
ers of "independent" governments all through 
the world are in a state of Nature, it is plain the 
world never was, nor never will be, without num- 
bers of men in that state. I have named all gov- 
ernors of "independent" communities, whether 
they are, or are not, in league with others; for it 
is not every compact that puts an end to the state 
ofNature between men, but only this one of agree- 
ing together mutually to enter into one com- 
munity, and make one body politic; other prom- 
ises and compacts men may make one with an- 
other, and yet still be in tbe state of Nature. The 
promises and baa-gains for truck* etc. r between 



JOHN LOCKE 



the two men in Soldania, in or between a Swiss 
and an Indian, in the woods of America, are 
binding to them, though they are perfectly in a 
state of Nature in reference to one another for 
truth, and keeping of faith belongs to men as 
men, and not as members of society. 

1 5. To those that say there were never any men 
in the state of Nature, I will not oppose the au- 
thority of the judicious Hooker (Eccl. Pol. i. 10), 
where he says, "the laws which have been hith- 
erto mentioned" i.e., the laws of Nature "do 
bind men absolutely, even as they are men, al- 
though they have never any settled fellowship, 
never any solemn agreement amongst themselves 
what to do or not to do; but for as much as we 
are not by ourselves sufficient to furnish ourselves 
with competent store of things needful for such 
a life as our Nature doth desire, a life fit for the 
dignity of man, therefore to supply those defects 
and imperfections which are in us, as living sin- 
gle and solely by ourselves, we are naturally in- 
duced to seek communion and fellowship with 
others; this was the cause of men uniting them- 
selves as first in politic societies." But I, more- 
over, affirm that all men are naturally in that 
state, and remain so till, by their own consents, 
they make themselves members of some politic 
society, and I doubt not, in the sequel of this dis- 
course, to make it very clear. 

Chap. III. Of the State of War 

1 6. The state of war is a state of enmity and de- 
struction; and therefore declaring by word or ac- 
tion, not a passionate and hasty, but sedate, set- 
tled design upon another man's life puts him in 
a state of war with him against whom he has de- 
clared such an intention, and so has exposed his 
life to the other's power to be taken away by him, 
or any one that joins with him in his defence, and 
espouses his quarrel; it being reasonable and just 
I should have aright to destroy that which threat- 
ens me with destruction; for by the fundamental 
law of Nature, man being to be preserved as much 
as possible, when all cannot be preserved, the 
safety of the innocent is to be preferred, and one 
may destroy a man who makes war upon him, 
or has discovered an enmity to his being, for the 
same reason that he may kill a wolf or a lion, be- 
cause they are not under the ties of the common 
law of reason, have no other rule but that of force 
and violence, and so may be treated as a beast 
of prey, those dangerous and noxious creatures 
that \vill be sure to destroy him whenever he falls 
into their power. 

17. And hence it is that he who attempts to 
get another man into Ms absolute power does 



CONCERNING CIVIL GOVERNMENT 



thereby put himself into a state of war with him; 
it being to be understood as a declaration of a 
design upon his life. For I have reason to con- 
clude that he who would get me into his power 
without my consent would use me as he pleased 
when he had got me there, and destroy me too 
when he had a fancy to it; for nobody can desire 
to have me in his absolute power unless it be to 
compel me by force to that which is against the 
right of my freedom i.e. make me a slave. To 
be free from such force is the only security of my 
preservation, and reason bids me look on him as 
an enemy to my preservation who would take 
away that freedom which is the fence to it; so that 
he who makes an attempt to enslave me thereby 
puts himself into a state of war with me. He that 
in the state of Nature would take away the free- 
dom that belongs to any one in that state must 
necessarily be supposed to have a design to take 
away everything else, that freedom being the 
foundation of all the rest; as he that in the state 
of society would take away the freedom belong- 
ing to those of that society or commonwealth 
must be supposed to design to take away from 
them everything else, and so be looked on as in 
a state of war. 

1 8. This makes it lawful for a man to kill a thief 
who has not in the least hurt him, nor declared 
any design upon his life, any farther than by the 
use offeree, so to get him in his power as to take 
away his money, or what he pleases, from him; 
because using force, where he has no right to get 
me into his power, let his pretence be what it will, 
I have no reason to suppose that he who would 
take away my liberty would not, when he had 
me in his power, take away everything else. And, 
therefore, it is lawful for me to treat him as one 
who has put himself into a state of war with me 
i.e., kill him if I can; for to that hazard does 
he justly expose himself whoever introduces a 
state of war, and is aggressor in it. 

1 9. And here we have the plain difference be- 
tween the state of Nature and the state of war, 
which however some men have confounded, are 
as far distant as a state of peace, goodwill, mu- 
tual assistance, and preservation; and a state of 
enmity, malice, violence and mutual destruction 
are one from another. Men living together ac- 
cording to reason without a common superior on 
earth, with authority to judge between them, is 
properly the state of Nature. But force, or a de- 
clared design of force upon the person of anoth- 
er, where there is no common superior on earth 
to appeal to for relief, is the state of war; and it 
is the want of such an appeal gives a man the 
right of war even against an aggressor, though 



he be in society and a fellow-subject. Thus, a thief 
whom I cannot harm, but by appeal to the law, 
for having stolen all that I am worth, I may kill 
when he sets on me to rob me but of my horse or 
coat, because the law, which was made for my 
preservation, where it cannot interpose to secure 
my life from present force, which if lost is cap- 
able of no reparation, permits me my own de- 
fence and the right of war, a liberty to kill the 
aggressor, because the aggressor allows not time 
to appeal to our common judge, nor the decision 
of the law, for remedy in a case where the mis- 
chief may be irreparable. Want of a common 
judge with authority puts all men in a state of 
Nature; force without right upon a man's per- 
son makes a state of war both where there is, and 
is not, a common judge. 

20. But when the actual force is over, the state 
of war ceases between those that are in society 
and are equally on both sides subject to the judge ; 
and, therefore, in such controversies, where the 
question is put, "Who shall be judge?" it cannot 
be meant who shall decide the controversy; ev- 
ery one knows what Jephtha here tells us, that 
"the Lord the Judge" shall judge. Where there 
is no judge on earth the appeal lies to God in 
Heaven. That question then cannot mean who 
shall judge, whether another hath put himself in 
a state of war with me, and whether I may, as 
Jephtha did, appeal to Heaven in it? Of that I 
myself can only judge in my own conscience, as 
I will answer it at the great day to the Supreme 
Judge of all men. 

Chap. IV. Of Slavery 

Si i . The natural liberty of man is to be free from 
any superior power on earth, and not to be un- 
der the will or legislative authority of man, but 
to have only the law of Nature for his rule. The 
liberty of man in society is to be under no other 
legislative power but that established by consent 
in the commonwealth, nor under the dominion 
of any will, or restraint of any law, but what that 
legislative shall enact according to the trust put 
in it. Freedom, then, is not what Sir Robert Fil- 
mer tells us: "A liberty for every one to do what 
he lists, to live as he pleases, and not to be tied 
by any laws"; but freedom of men under gov- 
ernment is to have a standing rule to live by, 
common to every one of that society, and made 
by the legislative power erected hi it. A liberty 
to follow my own will in all things where that 
rule prescribes not, not to be subject to the in- 
constant, uncertain, unknown, arbitrary will 
of another man, as freedom of nature is to be un- 
der no other restraint but the law of Nature. 



3 o JOHN 

22.Thisfreedomfromabsolute, arbitrary pow- 
er is so necessary to, and closely joined with, a 
man's preservation, that he cannot part with it 
but by what forfeits his preservation and life to- 
gether. For a man, not having the power of his 
own life, cannot by compact or his own consent 
enslave himself to any one, nor put himself un- 
der the absolute, arbitrary power of another to 
take away his life when he pleases. Nobody can 
give more power than he has himself, and he that 
cannot take away his own life cannot give an- 
other power over it. Indeed, having by his fault 
forfeited his own life by some act that deserves 
death, he to whom he has forfeited it may, when 
he has him in his power, delay to take it, and 
make use of him to his own service; and he does 
him no injury by it. For, whenever he finds the 
hardship of his slavery outweigh the value of his 
life, It is in his power, by resisting the will of his 
master, to draw on himself the death he desires. 

23. This is the perfect condition of slavery, 
which is nothing else but the state of war con- 
tinued between a lawful conqueror and a cap- 
tive, for if once compact enter between them, and 
make an agreement for a limited power on the 
one side, and obedience on the other, the state 
of war and slavery ceases as long as the compact 
endures; for, as has been said, no man can by 
agreement pass over to another that which he 
hath not in himself a power over his own life. 

I confess, we find among the Jews, as well as 
other nations, that men did sell themselves; but 
it is plain this was only to drudgery, not to slav- 
ery; for it is evident the person sold was not un- 
der an absolute, arbitrary, despotical power, for 
the master could not have power to kill him at 
any time, whom at a certain tune he was obliged 
to let go free out of his service; and the master of 
such a servant was so far from having an arbi- 
trary power over his life that he could not at 
pleasure so much as maim him, but the loss of 
an eye or tooth set him free (Exod. si.). 

Chap. V. Of Property 

24, Whether we consider natural reason, which 
tells us that men, being once born, have a right 
to their preservation, and consequently to meat 
and drink and such other things as Nature af- 
fordsfor their subsistence, or "revelation," which 
gives us an account of those grants God made of 
the world to Adam, and to Noah and his sons, it 
is very clqar that God, as King David says (Psalm 
1 15- *$) "has given the earth to thedaildren of 
men," giyeji it to mapl^l in concern. But, tiu> 



LOCKE 

property in anything, I will not content myself 
to answer, that, if it be difficult to make out 
"property" upon a supposition that God gave 
the world to Adam and his posterity in common, 
it is impossible that any man but one universal 
monarch should have any "property" upon a 
supposition that God gave the world to Adam 
and his heirs in succession, exclusive of all the rest 
of his posterity; but I shall endeavour to show 
how men might come to have a property in sev- 
eral parts of that which God gave to mankind 
in common, and that without any express com- 
pact^ of all the commoners. 

25. God, who hath given the world to men in 
common, hath also given them reason to make 
use of it to the best advantage_of life and conven- 
ience. The earth and all that is therein is given 
to men for the support and comfort of their be- 
ing. And though all the fruits it naturally pro- 
duces, and beasts it feeds, belong to mankind in 
common, as they are produced by the spontan- 
eous hand of Nature, and nobody has originally 
a private dominion exclusive of the rest of man- 
kind in any of them, as they are thus in their nat- 
ural state, yet being given for the use of men, there 
must of necessity be a means to appropriate them 
some way or other before they can be of any use, 
or at all beneficial, to any particular men. The 
fruit or venison which nourishes the wild Indi- 
an, who knows no enclosure, and is still a tenant 
in common, must be his, and so his i.e., a part 
of him, that another can no longer have any right 
to it before it can do him any good for the sup- 
port of his life. 

x j/26. Though the earth and all inferior creatures 
b common to all men, yet every man has a 
"property" in his own "person." This nobody 
has any right to but himself. The "labour" of his 
body and the "work" of his hands, we may say, 
are properly his. Whatsoever, then, he removes 
out of the state that Nature hath provided and 
left it in, he hath mixed his labour with it, and 
joined to it something that is his own, and thereby 
makes it his property. It being by him removed 
from the common state Nature placed it in, it 
hath by this labour something annexed fib it that 
excludes the common right of other meiufror this 
"labour" being the unquestionable property of 
the labourer, no man but he can have a right to 
what that is once joined to, at least where there 
is enough, and as good left in common for others. 

27, He that is nourished by the acorn&he picked 
up under an oak, or the' apples be gathered from 
the trees in the wood, has certainly appropriat- 
ed ,them to himself. JsTobody can deny but the 

d 



CONCERNING CIVIL GOVERNMENT 



begin to be his? when he digested? or when he 
ate? or when he boiled? or when he brought them 
home? or when he picked them up? And it is 
plain, if the first gathering made them not his, 
nothing else could. That labour put a distinc- 
tion between them and common. That added 
something to them more than Nature, the com- 
mon mother of all, had done, and so they be- 
came his private right. And will any one say he 
had no right to those acorns or apples he thus 
appropriated because he had not the consent of 
all mankind to make them his? Was it a robbery 
thus to assume to himself what belonged to aU 
in common? If such a consent as that was neces- 
sary, man had starved, notwithstanding the plen- 
ty God had given him. We see in commons, which 
remain so by compact, that it is the taking any 
part of what is common, and removing it out of 
the state Nature leaves it in, which begins the 
property, without which the common is of no use. 
And the taking of this or that part does not de- 
pend on the express consent of all the common- 
ers. Thus, the grass my horse has bit, the turfs 
my servant has cut, and the ore I have digged in 
any place, where I have a right to them in com- 
mon with others, become my property without 
the assignation or consent of anybody. The la- 
bour that was mine, removing them out of that 
common state they were in, hath fixed my prop- 
erty in them. 

28. By "making an explicit consent of every 
commoner necessary to any one's appropriating 
to himself any part of what is given in common. 
Children or servants could not cut the meat which 
their father or master had provided for them in 
common without assigning to every one his pe- 
culiar part. Though the water running in the 
fountain be every one's, yet who can doubt but 
that in the pitcher is his only who drew it out? 
His labour hath taken it out of the hands of Na- 
ture where it was common, and belonged equal- 
ly to all her children, and hath thereby appro- 
priated it to himself. 

29. Thus this law of reason makes the deer that 
Indian's who hath killed it; it is allowed to be 
his goods who hath bestowed his labour upon 
it, though, before," it was the common .right of 
every one. Andtunongst those who are counted 
the civilised part of mankind, who have made 
and multiplied positive laws to determine prop- 
erty, this original law of Nature for the beginning 
of property, in what was before common, still 
takes place, and by virtue thereof, what fish any 
one catches in the ocean, that great and still re- 
inaining common of mankind; or what amber- 
gris any ojj&fca&es wp here is by the labour that 



removes it out of that common state Nature left 
it in, made his property who takes that pains 
about it. And even amongst us, the hare that any 
one is hunting is thought his who pursues her 
during the chase. For being a beast that is still 
looked upon as common, and no man's private 
possession, whoever has employed so much la- 
bour about any of that kind as to find and pur- 
sue her has thereby removed her from the state 
of Nature wherein she was common, and hath 
begun a property. 

30. It will, perhaps, be objected to this, that if 
gathering the acorns or other fruits of the earth, 
etc., makes a right to them, then any one may 
engross as much as he will. To which I answer, 
Not so. The same law of Nature that does by this 
means give us property, does also bound that 
property too. "God has given us all things rich- 
ly." Is the voice of reason confirmed by inspira- 
tion? But how far has He given it us "to en- 
joy"? As much as any one can make use of to 
any advantage of life before it spoils, so much he 
may by his labour fix a property in. Whatever is 
beyond this is more than his share, and belongs 
to others. Nothing was made by God for man to 
spoil or destroy. And thus considering the plenty 
of natural provisions there was a long time in the 
world, and the few spenders, and to how'small a 
part of that provision the industry of one man 
could extend itself and engross it to the prejudice 
of others, especially keeping within the bounds 
set by reason of what might serve for his use, 
there could be then little room for quarrels or 
contentions about property so established. 

3 1 . But the chief matter of property being now 
not the fruits of the earth and the beasts that sub- 
sist on it, but the earth itself, as that which takes 
in and carries with it all the rest, I think it is plain 
that property in that too is acquired as the for- 
mer. As much land as a man tills, plants, im- 
proves, cultivates, and can use the product of, so 
much is his property. He by his labour does, as 
it were, enclose it from the common. Nor will it 
invalidate his right to say everybody else has an 
equal title to it, and therefore he cannot appropri- 
ate, he cannot enclose, without the consent of all 
his fellow-commoners, all mankind. God, when j 
He gave the world in common to all mankind, 
commanded man also to labour, and the penury 
of his condition required it of him. God and his 
reason commanded him to subdue the earth 
ije. 9 improve it for the benefit of life and therein 
lay out something upon it that was his own, his 
labour. He that, in obedience to this command 
of God, subdued, tilled, and sowed any part of 
it, thereby annexed to it something t&at was Ms 



32 JOHN 

property, which another had no title to, nor 
could without injury take from him. 

32. Nor was this appropriation of any parcel 
of land, by improving it, any prejudice to any 
other rrar>j since there was still enough and as 
good left, and more than the yet unprovided 
could use. So that, in effect, there was never the 
less left for others because of his enclosure for 
himself. For he that leaves as much as another 
can make use of does as good as take nothing at 
all. Nobody could think himself injured by the 
drinking of another man, though he took a good 
draught, who had a whole river of the same wa- 
ter left him to quench his thirst. And the case of 
land and water, where there is enough of both, 
is perfectly the same. 

331 God gave the world ^to men in common, 
but since He gave it tEe~m for their benefit and 
the greatest conveniencies of life they were cap- 
able to draw from it, it cannot be supposed He 
meant it should always remain common and un- 
cultivated. He gave it to the^use of the industri- 
ous and rational (and labour was to be his title 
to it) ; not to the fancy orjpovetousness of the quar- 
relsome and contentious^ He that had as good 
left for his improvement as was already taken up 
needed not complain, ought not to meddle with 
what was already improved by another's labour; 
if he did it is plain he desired the benefit of an- 
other's pains, which he had no right to, and not 
the ground which God had given him, in com- 
mon with others, to labour on, and whereof there 
was as good left as that already possessed, and 
more than he knew what to do with, or his in- 
dustry could reach to. 

34. It is true, in land that is common in Eng- 
land or any other country, where there are plenty 
of people under government who have money 
and commerce, no one can enclose or appropri- 
ate any part without the consent of all his fellow- 
commoners; because this is left common by com- 
pact i.e., by the law of the land, which is not to 
be violated. And, though it be common in re- 
spect of some men, it is not so to all mankind, 
but is the joint propriety of this country, or this 
parish. Besides, the remainder, after such enclos- 
ure, would not be as good to the rest of the com- 
moners as the whole was, when they could all 
make use of the whole; whereas in the beginning 
and first peopling of the great common of the 
world it was quite otherwise. The law man was 
under was rather for appropriating. God com- 
manded, and his wants forced him to labour. 
That was his property, which could not be tak- 
en from Mm wherever he had fixed it. And hence 
subduing or cuitiyatiaag the eartkaiwl having do* 



LOCKE 

minion, we see, are joined together. The one gave 
title to the other. So that God, by commanding 
to subdue, gave authority so far to appropriate. 
And the condition of human life, which requires 
labour and materials to work on, necessarily in- 
troduce private possessions. 

35. The measure of property Nature well set, 
by the extent of men's labour and the conveni- 
ency of life. No man's labour could subdue or 
appropriate all, nor could his enjoyment con- 
sume more than a small part; so that it was im- 
possible for any man, this way, to entrench upon 
the right of another or acquire to himself a prop- 
erty to the prejudice of his neighbour, who would 
still have room for as good and as large a posses- 
sion (after the other had taken out his) as before 
it was appropriated. Which measure did confine 
every man's possession to a very moderate pro- 
portion, and such as he might appropriate to him- 
self without injury to anybody in the first ages 
of the world, when men were more in danger to 
be lost, by wandering from their company, in the 
then vast wilderness of the earth than to be strait- 
ened for want of room to plant in. 

36. The same measure may be allowed still, 
without prejudice to anybody, full as the world 
seems. For, supposing a man or family, in the 
state they were at first, peopling of the world by 
the children of Adam or Noah, let him plant in 
some inland vacant places of America. We shall 
find that the possessions he could make himself, 
upon the measures we have given, would not be 
very large, nor, even to this day, prejudice the 
rest of mankind or give them reason to complain 
or think themselves injured by this man's en- 
croachment, though the race of men have now 
spread themselves to all the corners of the world, 
and do infinitely exceed the small number was 
at the beginning. Nay, the extent of ground is of 
so little value without labour that I have heard 
it affirmed that in Spain itself a man may be per- 
mitted to plough, sow, and reap, without being 
disturbed, upon land he has no other title to, but 
only his malting use of it. But, on the contrary, 
the inhabitants think themselves beholden to him 
who, by his industry on neglected, and conse- 
quently waste land, has increased the stock of 
corn, which they wanted. But be this as it will, 
which I lay no stress on, this I dare boldly affirm, 
that the same rule of propriety viz., that every 
man should have as much as he could make use 
of, would hold still in the world, without strait- 
ening anybody, since there is land enough in the 
world to suffice double the inhabitants, had not 
the invention of money, and the tacit agreement 
of men to put a value on it, introduced (by con- 



CONCERNING CIVIL GOVERNMENT 



33 



sent) larger possessions and a right to them; 
which, how it has done, I shall by and by show 
more at large. 

37. This is certain, that in the beginning, be- 
fore the desire of having more than men needed 
had altered the intrinsic value of things, which 
depends only on their usefulness to the life of 
man, or had agreed that a little piece of yellow 
metal, which would keep without wasting or de- 
cay, should be worth a great piece of flesh or a 
whole heap of corn, though men had a right to 
appropriate by their labour, each one to him- 
self, as much of the things of Nature as he could 
use, yet this could not be much, nor to the prej- 
udice of others, where the same plenty was still 
left, to those who would use the same industry. 

Before the appropriation of land, he who gath- 
ered as much of the wild fruit, killed, caught, or 
tamed as many of the beasts as he could he that 
so employed his pains about any of the spontan- 
eous products of Nature as any way to alter them 
from the state Nature put them in, by placing 
any of his labour on them, did thereby acquire 
a propriety in them; but if they perished in his 
possession without their due use if the fruits 
rotted or the venison putrefied before he could 
spend it, he offended against the common law of 
Nature, and was liable to be punished: he in- 
vaded his neighbour's share, for he had no right 
farther than his use called for any of them, and 
they might serve to afford him conveniencies of 
life. 

38: The same measures governed the posses- 
sion of land, too. Whatsoever he tilled and reaped, 
laid up and made use of before it spoiled, that 
was his peculiar right; whatsoever he enclosed, 
and could feed and make use of, the cattle and 
product was also his. But if either the grass of his 
enclosure rotted on the ground, or the fruit of his 
planting perished without gathering and laying 
up, this part of the earth, notwithstanding his 
enclosure, was still to be looked on as waste, and 
might be the possession of any other. Thus, at 
the beginning, Cain might take as much ground 
as he could till and make it his own land, and 
yet leave enough to Abel's sheep to feed on: a 
few acres would serve for both their possessions. 
But as families increased and industry enlarged 
their stocks, their possessions enlarged with the 
need of them; but yet it was commonly without 
any fixed property in the ground they made use 
of till they incorporated, settled themselves to- 
gether, and built cities, and then, by consent, 
they came in time to set out the bounds of their 
distinct territories and agree on limits between 
them and their neighbours, and by laws within 



themselves settled the properties of those of the 
same society. For we see that in that part of the 
world which was first inhabited, and therefore 
like to be best peopled, even as low down as Ab- 
raham's tune, they wandered with their flocks 
and their herds, which was their substance, free- 
ly up and down and this Abraham did in a 
country where he was a stranger; whence it is 
plain that, at least, a great part of the land lay 
in common, that the inhabitants valued it not, 
nor claimed property in any more than they made 
use of; but when there was not room enough in 
the same place for their herds to feed together, 
they, by consent, as Abraham and Lot did (Gen. 
xiii. 5), separated and enlarged their pasture 
where it best liked them. And for the same rea- 
son, Esau went from his father and his brother, 
and planted in Mount Seir (Gen. 36. 6). 

39. And thus, without supposing any private 
dominion and property in Adam over all the 
world, exclusive of all other men, which can no 
way be proved, nor any one's property be made 
out from it, but supposing the world, given as it 
was to the children of men in common, we see 
how labour could make men distinct titles to sev- 
eral parcels of it for their private uses, wherein 
there could be no doubt of right, no room for 
quarrel. 

40. Nor is it so strange as, perhaps, before con- 
sideration, it may appear, that the property of 
labour should be able to overbalance the com- 
munity of land, for it is labour indeed that puts 
the difference of value on everything; and let 
any one consider what the difference is between 
an acre of land planted with tobacco or sugar, 
sown with wheat or barley, and an acre of the 
same land lying in common without any hus- 
bandry upon it, and he will find that the im- 
provement of labour makes the fax greater part 
of the value. I think it will be but a very modest 
computation to say, that of the products of the 
earth useful to the life of man, nine-tenths are 
the effects of labour. Nay, if we will rightly esti- 
mate things as they come to our use, and cast up 
the several expenses about them what in them 
is purely owing to Nature and what to labour 
we shall find that in most of them ninety-nine 
hundredths are wholly to be put on the account 
of labour. 

41. There cannot be a clearer demonstration 
of anything than several nations of the Ameri- 
cans are of this, who are rich in land and poor in 
all the comforts of life; whom Nature, having 
furnished as liberally as any other people with 
the materials of plenty Le^ a fruitful soil, apt 
to produce in abundance what might serve for 



34 

food, raiment, and delight; yet, for want of im- 
proving it by labour, have not one hundredth 
part of the conveniencies we enjoy, and a king 
of a large and fruitful territory there feeds, lodges, 
and is clad worse than a day labourer in England. 

42. To make this a little clearer, let us but 
trace some of the ordinary provisions of life, 
through their several progresses, before they 
come to our use, and see how much they receive 
of their value from human industry. Bread, wine, 
and cloth are things of daily use and great plen- 
ty; yet notwithstanding acorns, water, andleaves, 
or skins must be our bread, drink and clothing, 
did not labour furnish us with these more useful 
commodities. For whatever bread is more worth 
than acorns, wine than water, and cloth or silk 
than leaves, skins or moss, that is wholly owing 
to labour and industry. The one of these being 
the food and raiment which unassisted Nature 
furnishes us with; the other provisions which 
our industry and pains prepare for us, which 
how much they exceed the other in value, whea 
any one hath computed, he will then see how 
much labour makes the far greatest part of the 
value of things we enjoy in this world; and the 
ground which produces the materials is scarce 
to be reckoned- in as any, or at most, but a very 
small part of it; so little, that even amongst us, 
land that is left wholly to nature, that hath no 
improvement of pasturage, tillage, or planting, 
is called, as indeed it is, waste; and we shall find 
the benefit of it amount to little more than noth- 
ing. 

43. An acre of land that bears here twenty 
bushels of wheat, and another in America, which, 
with the same husbandry, would do the like, 
are, without doubt, of the same natural, intrin- 
sic value. But yet the benefit mankind receives 
from one in a year is worth five pounds, and the 
other possibly not worth a penny; if all the prof- 
it an Indian received from it were to be valued 
and sold here, at least I may truly say, not one 
thousandth. It is labour, then, which puts the 
greatest part of value upon land, without which 
it would scarcely be worth anything; it is to that 
we owe the greatest part of all its useful pro- 
ducts; for all that the straw, bran, bread, of that 
acre of wheat, is more worth than the product 
of an acre of as good land which lies waste is all 
the effect of labour. For it is not barely the 
ploughman's pains, the reaper's and thresher's 
toil, and die baker's sweat, is to be counted into 
the bread we eat; the labour, of those who brpke 
the oxen, w&q digged and wrought the iron and 

stones, wi^iafcd and fr^fleffc^T **-**- 

ployed 



JOHN LOCKE 



other utensils, which are a vast number, requi- 
site to this corn, from its sowing to its being made 
bread, must all be charged on the account of 
labour, and received as an effect of that; Nature 
and the earth furnished only the almost worth- 
less materials as in themselves. It would be a 
strange catalogue of things that industry pro- 
vided and made use of about every loaf of bread 
before it came to our use if we could trace them; 
iron, wood, leather, bark, timber, stone, bricks, 
coals, lime, cloth, dyeing-drugs, pitch, tar, masts, 
ropes, and all the materials made use of in the 
ship that brought any of the commodities made 
use of by any of the workmen, to any part of the 
work, all which it would be almost impossible, 
at least too long, to reckon up. 

44. From all which it is evident, that though 
the things of Nature are given in common, man 
(by being master of himself, and proprietor of 
his own person, and the actions or labour of it) 
had still in himself the great foundation of prop- 
erty; and that which made up the great part of 
what he applied to the support or comfort of his 
being, when invention and arts had improved 
the conveniences of life, was perfectly his own, 
and did not belong in common to others. 

45. Thus labour, in the beginning, gave a 
right of property, wherever any one was pleased 
to employ it, upon what was common, which re- 
mained a long while, the far greater part, and is 
yet more than mankind makes use of. Men at 
first, for the most part, contented themselves 
with what unassisted Nature offered to their 
necessities; and though afterwards, in some parts 
of the world, where the increase of people and 
stock, with the use of money, had made land 
scarce, and so of some value, the several com- 
munities settled the bounds of their distinct ter- 
ritories, and, by laws, within themselves, regu- 
lated the properties of the private men of their 
society, and so, by compact and agreement, set- 
tled the property which labour and industry be- 
gan. And the leagues that have been made be- 
tween several states and kingdoms, either ex- 
pressly or tacitly disowning all claim and right 
to the land in the other's possession, have, by 
common consent, given up their pretences to 
their natural common right, which originally 
they had to those countries; and so have, by pos- 
itive agreement, settled a property amongst 
themselves, in distinct parts of the world; yet 
there are still great tracts of ground to be found, 
which the inhabitants thereof r not haying joined 
with the rest of mankind in the Consent of the 
u^e p| tk^ir cpmn^P^ money, lie w$ste, and are 

? it, do, or 



CONCERNING CIVIL GOVERNMENT 



35 



can make use of, and so still lie in common; 
though this can scarce happen amongst that 
part of mankind that have consented to the use 
of money. 

46. The greatest part of things really useful to 
the life of man, and such as the necessity of sub- 
sisting made the first commoners of the world 
look after as it doth the Americans now are 
generally things of short duration, such as if 
they are not consumed by use will decay and 
perish of themselves. Gold, silver, and diamonds 
are things that fancy or agreement hath put the 
value on, more than real use and the necessary 
support of life. Now of those good things which 
Nature hath provided in common, every one 
hath aright (as hath been said) to as much as he 
could use; and had a property in all he could 
effect with his labour; all that his industry could 
extend to, to alter from the state Nature had put 
it in, was his. He that gathered a hundred bush- 
els of acorns or apples had thereby a property in 
them; they were his goods as soon as gathered. 
He was only to look that he used them before 
they spoiled, else he took more than his share, 
and robbed others. And, indeed, it was a foolish 
thing, as well as dishonest, to hoard up more 
than he could make use of. If he gave away a 
part to anybody else, so that it perished not use- 
lessly in his possession, these he also made use of. 
And if he also bartered away plums that would 
have rotted in a week, for nuts that would last 
good for his eating a whole year, he did no in- 
jury; he wasted not the common stock; destroyed 
no part of the portion of goods that belonged to 
others, so long as nothing perished uselessly in 
his hands. Again, if he would give his nuts for a 
piece of metal, pleased with its colour, or ex- 
change his sheep for shells, or wool for a spark- 
ling pebble or a diamond, and keep those by 
him all his life, he invaded not the right of 
others; he might heap up as much of these dur- 
able things as he pleased; the exceeding of the 
bounds of his just property not lying in the 
largeness of his possession, but the perishing of 
anything uselessly in it. 

47. And thus came in the use of money; some 
lasting thing that men might keep without spoil- 
ing, and that, by mutual consent, men would 
take in exchange for the truly useful but perish- 
able supports of life. 

48. And as different degrees of industry were 
apt to give men possessions in different propor- 
tions, so this Invention of money gave them the 
opportunity to continue and enlarge them. For 
supposing an island, separate from all possible 
commerce with the rest of the world, wherein 



there were but a hundred families, but there 
were sheep, horses, and cows, with other use- 
ful animals, wholesome fruits, and land enough 
for corn for a hundred thousand times as many, 
but nothing in the island, either because of its 
commonness or perishableness, fit to supply the 
place of money. What reason could any one 
have there to enlarge his possessions beyond the 
use of his family, and a plentiful supply to its 
consumption, either in what their own industry 
produced, or they could barter for like perish- 
able, useful commodities with others? Where 
there is not something both lasting and scarce, 
and so valuable to be hoarded up, there men 
will not be apt to enlarge their possessions of 
land, were it never so rich, never so free for them 
to take. For I ask, what would a man value ten 
thousand or an hundred thousand acres of ex- 
cellent land, ready cultivated and well stocked, 
too, with cattle, in the middle of the inland 
parts of America, where he had no hopes of 
commerce with other parts of the world, to draw 
money to him by the sale of the product? It 
would not be worth the enclosing, and we should 
see him give up again to the wild common of 
Nature whatever was more than would supply 
the conveniences of life, to be had there for him 
and his family. 

49. Thus, in the beginning, all the world was 
America, and more so than that is now; for no 
such thing as money was anywhere known. Find 
out something that hath the use and value of 
money amongst his neighbours, you shall see 
the same man will begin presently to enlarge 
his possessions. 

50. But, since gold and silver, being little use- 
ful to the life of man, in proportion to food, rai- 
ment, and carriage, has its value only from the 
consent of men whereof labour yet makes in 
great part the measure it is plain that the con- 
sent of men have agreed to a disproportionate 
and unequal possession of the earth I mean 
out of the bounds of society and compact; for in 
governments the laws regulate it; they having, 
by consent, found out and agreed in a way how 
a man may, rightfully and without injury, pos- 
sess more than he himself can make use of by re- 
ceiving gold and silver, which may continue long 
in a man's possession without decaying for the 
overplus, and agreeing those metals should have 
a value. 

51. And thus, I think, it is very easy to con- 
ceive, without any difficulty, how labour could 
at first begin a tide of property in the common 
things of Nature, and how the spending it upon 
our uses bounded it; so that there could then be 



3 6 JOHN 

no reason of quarrelling about title, nor any 
doubt about the largeness of possession it gave. 
Right and conveniency went together. For as a 
man had a right to all he could employ his la- 
bour upon, so he had no temptation to labour 
for more than he could make use of. This left no 
room for controversy about the title, nor for en- 
croachment on the right of others. What portion 
a man carved to himself was easily seen; and it 
was useless, as well as dishonest, to carve him- 
self too much, or take more than he needed. 

Chap. VI. Of Paternal Power 

52. IT may perhaps be censured an impertinent 
criticism in a discourse of this nature to find fault 
with words and names that have obtained in the 
world. And yet possibly it may not be amiss to 
offer new ones when the old are apt to lead men 
into mistakes, as this of paternal power prob- 
ably has done, which seems so to place the pow- 
er of parents over their children wholly in the 
father, as if the mother had no share in it; where- 
as if we consult reason or revelation, we shall 
find she has an equal title, which may give one 
reason to ask whether this might not be more 
properly called parental power? For whatever 
obligation Nature and the right of generation 
lays on children, it must certainly bind them 
equal to both the concurrent causes of it. And 
accordingly we see the positive law of God every- 
where joins them together without distinction, 
when it commands the obedience of children: 
"Honour thy father and thy mother" (Exod. 
20. 12); "Whosoever curseth his father or his 
mother" (Lev. 20. 9); "Ye shall fear every man 
his mother and his father" (Lev. 19. 3); "Chil- 
dren, obey your parents" (Eph. 6. i), etc., is 
the style of the Old and New Testament. 

53. Had but this one thing been well consid- 
ered without looking any deeper into the mat- 
ter, it might perhaps have kept men from run- 
ning into those gross mistakes they have made 
about this power of parents, which however it 
might without any great harshness bear the 
name of absolute dominion and regal authority, 
when under the title of "paternal" power, it 
seemed appropriated to the father; would yet 
have sounded but oddly, and in the very name 
shown the absurdity, if this supposed absolute 
power over children had been called parental, 
and thereby discovered that it belonged to the 
mother too. For it will but very ill serve the turn 
of those men who contend so much for the ab- 
solute power and authority of the fatherhood, 
as they call it, that the mother should have any 
share in it And it would have but ill supported 



LOCKE 

the monarchy they contend for, when by the 
very name it appeared that that fundamental 
authority from whence they would derive their 
government of a single person only was not 
placed in one, but two persons jointly. But to 
let this of names pass. 

54. Though I have said above (2) "That all 
men by nature are equal," I cannot be supposed 
to understand all sorts of "equality." Age or vir- 
tue may give men a just precedency. Excellency 
of parts and merit may place others above the 
common level. Birth may subject some, and al- 
liance or benefits others, to pay an observance 
to those to whom Nature, gratitude, or other 
respects, may have made it due; and yet all this 
consists with the equality which all men are 
in respect of jurisdiction or dominion one over 
another, which was the equality I there spoke of 
as proper to the business in hand, being that 
equal right that every man hath to his natural 
freedom, without being subjected to the will or 
authority of any other man. 

55. Children, I confess, are not born in this 
full state of equality, though they are born to it. 
Their parents have a sort of rule and jurisdic- 
tion over them when they come into the world, 
and for some time after, but it is but a tempo- 
rary one. The bonds of this subjection are like 
the swaddling clothes they are wrapt up in and 
supported by in the weakness of their infancy. 
Age and reason as they grow up loosen them, 
till at length they drop quite off, and leave a 
man at his own free disposal. 

56. Adam was created a perfect man, his body 
and mind in full possession of their strength and 
reason, and so was capable from the first in- 
stance of his being to provide for his own sup- 
port and preservation, and govern his actions 
according to the dictates of the law of reason 
God had implanted in him. From him the world 
is peopled with his descendants, who are all born 
infants, weak and helpless, without knowledge 
or understanding. But to supply the defects of 
this imperfect state till the improvement of 
growth and age had removed them, Adam and 
Eve, and after them all parents were, by the law 
of Nature, under an obligation to preserve, nour- 
ish and educate the children they had begotten, 
not as their own workmanship, but the work- 
manship of their own Maker, the Almighty, to 
whom they were to be accountable for them. 

57. The law that was to govern Adam was the 
same that was to govern all his posterity, the law 
of reason. But his offspring having another way 
of entrance into the world, different from him, 
by a natural birth, that produced them igno- 



CONCERNING CIVIL GOVERNMENT 



37 



rant, and without the use of reason, they were 
not presently under that law. For nobody can 
be under a law that is not promulgated to him; 
and this law being promulgated or made known 
by reason only, he that is not come to the use of 
his reason cannot be said to be under this law; 
and Adam's children being not presently as soon 
as born under this law of reason, were not pres- 
ently free. For law, in its true notion, is not so 
much the limitation as the direction of a free 
and intelligent agent to his proper interest, and 
prescribes no farther than is for the general good 
of those under that law. Gould they be happier 
without it, the law, as a useless thing, would of 
itself vanish; and that ill deserves the name of 
confinement which hedges us in only from bogs 
and precipices. So that however it may be mis- 
taken, the end of law is not to abolish or restrain, 
but to preserve and enlarge freedom. For in all 
the states of created beings, capable of laws, 
where there is no law there is no freedom. For 
liberty is to be free from restraint and violence 
from others, which cannot be where there is no 
law; and is not, as we are told, "a liberty for 
every man to do what he lists." For who could 
be free, when every other man's humour might 
domineer over him? But a liberty to dispose and 
order freely as he lists his person, actions, pos- 
sessions, and his wjiole property within the al- 
lowance of those laws under which he is, and 
therein not to be subject to the arbitrary will of 
another, but freely follow his own. 

58. The power, then, that parents have over 
their children arises from that duty which is in- 
cumbent on them, to take care of their offspring 
during the imperfect state of childhood. To in- 
form the mind, and govern the actions of their 
yet ignorant nonage, till reason shall take its 
place and ease them of that trouble, is what the 
children want, and the parents are bound to. 
For God having given man an understanding to 
direct his actions, has allowed him a freedom of 
will and liberty of acting, as properly belonging 
thereunto within the bounds of that law he is 
under. But whilst he is in an estate wherein he 
has no understanding of his own to direct his 
will, he is not to have any will of his own to fol- 
low. He that understands for him must will for 
him too; he must prescribe to his will, and regu- 
late his actions, but when he comes to the estate 
that made his father a free man, the son is a free 
man too. 

59. This holds in all the laws a man is under, 
whether natural or civil. Is a man under the law 
of Nature? What made him free of that law? 
what gave him a free disposing of his property, 



according to his own will, within the compass of 
that law? I answer, an estate wherein he might 
be supposed capable to know that law, that so 
he might keep his actions within the bounds of 
it. When he has acquired that state, he is pre- 
sumed to know how far that law is to be his 
guide, and how far he may make use of his free- 
dom, and so comes to have it; till then, some- 
body else must guide him, who is presumed to 
know how far the law allows a liberty. If such a 
state of reason, such an age of discretion made 
him free, the same shall make his son free too. Is 
a man under the law of England? what made 
him free of that law that is, to have the liberty 
to dispose of his actions and possessions, accord- 
ing to his own will, within the permission of that 
law? a capacity of knowing that law. Which is 
supposed, by that law, at the age of twenty-one, 
and in some cases sooner. If this made the father 
free, it shall make the son free too. Till then, we 
see the law allows the son to have no will, but he 
is to be guided by the will of his father or guard- 
ian, who is to understand for him. And if the 
father die and fail to substitute a deputy in this 
trust, if he hath not provided a tutor to govern 
his son during his minority, during his want of 
understanding, the law takes care to do it: some 
other must govern him and be a will to him till 
he hath attained to a state of freedom, and his 
understanding be fit to take the government of 
his will. But after that the father and son are 
equally free, as much as tutor and pupil, after 
nonage, equally subjects of the same law togeth- 
er, without any dominion left in the father over 
the life, liberty, or estate of his son, whether 
they be only in the state and under the law of 
Nature, or under the positive laws of an estab- 
lished government. 

60. But if through defects that may happen 
out of the ordinary course of Nature, any one 
comes not to such a degree of reason wherein he 
might be supposed capable of knowing the law, 
and so living within the rules of it, he is never 
capable of being a free man, he is never let loose 
to the disposure of his own will; because he 
knows no bounds to it, has not understanding, 
its proper guide, but is continued under the tui- 
tion and government of others all the time his 
own understanding is incapable of that charge. 
And so lunatics and idiots are never set free from 
the government of their parents: "Children who 
are not as yet come unto those years whereat 
they may have, and innocents, which are ex- 
cluded by a natural defect from ever having.'* 
Thirdly: "Madmen, which, for the present, can- 
not possibly have the use of right reason to guide 



JOHN LOCKE 



themselves, have, for their guide, the reason that 
guideth other men -which are tutors over them, 
to seek and procure their good for them," says 
Hooker (Eccl Pol, lib. L, s. 7). All which seems 
no more than that duty which God and Nature 
has laid on man, as well as other creatures, to 
preserve their offspring till they can be able to 
shift for themselves, and will scarce amount to 
an instance or proof of parents' regal authority. 

6 1 . Thus we are born free as we are born ra- 
tional; not that we have actually the exercise of 
either: age that brings one, brings with it the 
other too. And thus we see how natural freedom 
and subjection to parents may consist together, 
and are both founded on the same principle. A 
child is free by his father's tide, by his father's 
understanding, which is to govern him till he 
hath it of his own. The freedom of a man at 
years of discretion, and the subjection of a child 
to his parents, whilst yet short of it, are so con- 
sistent and so distinguishable that the most 
blinded contenders for monarchy, "by right of 
fatherhood," cannot miss of it; the most obsti- 
nate cannot but allow of it. For were their doc- 
trine all true, were the right heir of Adam now 
known, and, by that title, settled a monarch in 
his throne, invested with all the absolute un- 
limited power Sir Robert Filmer talks of, if he 
should die as soon as his heir were born, must 
not the child, notwithstanding he were never so 
free, never so much sovereign, be in subjection 
to his mother and nurse, to tutors and gover- 
nors, till age and education brought him reason 
and ability to govern himself and others? The 
necessities of his life, the health of his body, and 
the information of his mind would require him 
to be directed by the will of others and not his 
own; and yet will any one think that this re- 
straint and subjection were inconsistent with, or 
spoiled him of, that liberty or sovereignty he 
had a right to, or gave away his empire to those 
who had the government of his nonage? This 
government over him only prepared him the 
better and sooner for it. If anybody should ask 
me when my son is of age to be free, I shall an- 
swer, just when his monarch is of age to govern. 
"But at wtiat time," says the judicious Hooker 
{Ecd. P$l.> Mb. L, s. 6), "a man may be said to 
have attained so far forth the use of reason as 
suffketh to make him capable of those laws 
whereby be is then bound to guide to actions; 
this is a ^eat deal more easy for sense to discern 
than for any one, by skiM and learning* to deter- 
mine." :-,.,; : ' -. " v - l 

62, b$&@oi^w^ 

of, and alkw tiiatd^e is a tLii^ ^fam mea are 



to begin to act like free men, and therefore, till 
that time, require not oaths of fealty or allegi- 
ance, or other public owning of, or submission 
to, the government of their countries. 

63. The freedom then of man, and liberty of 
acting according to his own will, is grounded on 
his having reason, which is able to instruct him 
in that law he is to govern himself by, and make 
him know how far he is left to the freedom of his 
own will. To turn him loose to an unrestrained 
liberty, before he has reason to guide him, is not 
the allowing him the privilege of his nature to 
be free, but to thrust him out amongst brutes, 
and abandon him to a state as wretched and as 
much beneath that of a man as theirs. This is 
that which puts the authority into the parents' 
hands to govern the minority of their children. 
God hath made it their business to employ this 
care on their offspring, and hath placed in them 
suitable inclinations of tenderness and concern 
to temper this power, to apply it as His wisdom 
designed it, to the children's good as long as 
they should need to be under it. 

64. But what reason can hence advance this 
care of the parents due to their offspring into an 
absolute, arbitrary dominion of the father, whose 
power reaches no farther than by such a disci- 
pline as he finds most effectual to give, such 
strength and health to their bodies, such vigour 
and rectitude to their minds, as may best fit his 
children to be most useful to themselves and 
others, and, if it be necessary to his condition, 
to make them work when they are able for their 
own subsistence; but in this power the mother, 
too, has her share with the father. 

65. Nay, this power so little belongs to the fa- 
ther by any peculiar right of Nature, but only 
as he is guardian of his children, that when he 
quits his care of them he loses his power over 
them, which goes along with their nourishment 
and education, to which it is inseparably an- 
nexed, and belongs as much to the foster-father 
of an exposed child as to the natural father of 
another. So little power does the bare act of be- 
getting give a man over his issue, if all his care 
ends there, and this be all the title he hath to the 
name and authority of a father. And what will 
become of this paternal power in that part of 
the world where one woman hath more than 
one husband at a time? or in those parts of 
America where, when the husband and wife 
part, which happens frequently, the children 
are all left to the mother, follow her, and are 
wholly tinder her care and provision? And if the 
father die whilst the ^children are young, do bey 
apt natHffaHy everywhere we the same obedi* 



CONCERNING CIVIL GOVERNMENT 



39 



ence to their mother, during their minority, as 
to their father, were he alive? And will any one 
say that the mother hath a legislative power 
over her children that she can make standing 
rules which shall be of perpetual obligation, by 
which they ought to regulate all the concerns of 
their property, and bound their liberty all the 
course of their lives, and enforce the observa- 
tion of them with capital punishments? For this 
is the proper power of the magistrate, of which 
the father hath not so much as the shadow. His 
command over his children is but temporary, 
and reaches not their life or property. It is but a 
help to the weakness and imperfection of their 
nonage, a discipline necessary to their educa- 
tion. And though a father may dispose of his 
own possessions as he pleases when his children 
are out of danger of perishing for want, yet his 
power extends not to the lives or goods which 
either their own industry, or another's bounty, 
has made theirs, nor to their liberty neither 
when they are once arrived to the enfranchise- 
ment of the years of discretion. The father's em- 
pire then ceases, and he can from thenceforward 
no more dispose of the liberty of his son than 
that of any other man. And it must be far from 
an absolute or perpetual jurisdiction from which 
a man may withdraw himself, having licence 
from Divine authority to "leave father and 
mother and cleave to his wife." 

66. But though there be a time when a child 
comes to be as free from subjection to the will 
and command of his father as he himself is free 
from subjection to the will of anybody else, and 
they are both under no other restraint but that 
which is common to them both, whether it be 
the law of Nature or municipal law of their 
country, yet this freedom exempts not a son 
from that honour which he ought, by the law of 
God and Nature, to pay his parents, God hav- 
ing made the parents instruments in His great 
design of continuing the race of mankind and 
the occasions of life to their children. As He 
hath laid on them an obligation to nourish, pre- 
serve, and bring up their offspring, so He has 
laid on the children a perpetual obligation of 
honouring their parents, which, containing in 
it an inward esteem and reverence to be shown 
by all outward expressions, ties up the child 
from anything that may ever injure or affront, 
disturb or endanger the happiness or life of those 
from whom he received his, and engages him 
in all actions of defence, relief, assistance, and 
comfort of those by whose means he entered in- 
to being and has been made capable of any en- 
joyments of life. From this obligation no state, 



no freedom, can absolve children. But this is 
very far from giving parents a power of com- 
mand over their children, or an authority to 
make laws and dispose as they please of their 
lives or liberties. It is one thing to owe honour, 
respect, gratitude, and assistance; another to re- 
quire an absolute obedience and submission. 
The honour due to parents a monarch on his 
throne owes his mother, and yet this lessens not 
his authority nor subjects him to her govern- 
ment. 

67. The subjection of a minor places in the 
father a temporary government which termi- 
nates with the minority of the child; and the 
honour due from a child places in the parents a 
perpetual right to respect, reverence, support, 
and compliance, to more or less, as the father's 
care, cost, and kindness in his education has 
been more or less, and this ends not with minor- 
ity, but holds in all parts and conditions of a 
man's life. The want of distinguishing these two 
powers which the father hath, in the right of tui- 
tion, during minority, and the right of honour 
all his life, may perhaps have caused a great 
part of the mistakes about this matter. For, to 
speak properly of them, the first of these is rather 
the privilege of children and duty of parents 
than any prerogative of paternal power. The 
nourishment and education of their children is 
a charge so incumbent on parents for their chil- 
dren's good, that nothing can absolve them 
from taking care of it. And though the power of 
commanding and chastising them go along with 
it, yet God hath woven into the principles of 
human nature such a tenderness for their off- 
spring, that there is little fear that parents should 
use their power with too much rigour; the ex- 
cess is seldom on the severe side, the strong bias 
of nature drawing the other way. And therefore 
God Almighty, when He would express His 
gentle dealing with the Israelites, He tells them 
that though He chastened them, "He chastened 
them as a man chastens his son" (Deut. 8. 5} 
.., with tenderness and affection, and kept 
them under no severer discipline than what was 
absolutely best for them, and had been less kind- 
ness, to have slackened. This is that power to 
which children are commanded obedience, that 
the pains and care of their parents may not be 
increased or ill-rewarded, 

68. On the other side, honour and support all 
that which gratitude requires to return; for the 
benefits received by and from them is the indis- 
pensable duty of the child and the proper privi- 
lege of the parents. This is intended for the 
parents' advantage, as the other is for the child's; 



JOHN LOCKE 



though education, the parents' duty, seems to 
have most power, because the ignorance and in- 
firmities of childhood stand in need of restraint 
and correction, which is a visible exercise of 
rule and a kind of dominion. And that duty 
which is comprehended in the word "honour" 
requires less obedience, though the obligation 
be stronger on grown than younger children. 
For who can think the command, "Children, 
obey your parents," requires in a man that has 
children of his T own the same submission to his 
father as it does in his yet young children to him, 
and that by this precept he were bound to obey 
all his father's commands, if, out of a conceit 
of authority, he should have the indiscretion to 
treat him still as a boy? 

69. The first part, then, of paternal power, or 
rather duty, which is education, belongs so to 
the father that it terminates at a certain season. 
When the business of education is over it ceases 
of itself, and is also alienable before. For a man 
may put the tuition of his son in other hands; 
and he that has made his son an apprentice to 
another has discharged him, during that time, 
of a great part of his obedience, both to himself 
and to his mother. But all the duty of honour, 
the other part, remains nevertheless entire to 
them; nothing can cancel that. It is so insepara- 
ble from them both, that the father's authority 
cannot dispossess the mother of this right, nor 
can any man discharge his son from honouring 
her that bore him. But both these are very far 
from a power to make laws, and enforcing them 
with penalties that may reach estate, liberty, 
limbs, and life. The power of commanding ends 
with nonage, and though after that honour and 
respect, support and defence, and whatsoever 
gratitude can oblige a man to, for the highest 
benefits he is naturally capable of be always due 
from a son to his parents, yet all this puts no 
sceptre into the father's hand, no sovereign 
power of commanding. He has no dominion 
over his son's property or actions, nor any right 
that his will should prescribe to his son's in all 
things; however, it may become his son in many 
things, not very inconvenient to him and his 
family, to pay a deference to it. 

70. A man may owe honour and respect to an 
ancient or wise man, defence to his child or 
friend, relief and support to the distressed, and 
gratitude to a benefactor, to such a degree that 
all he has, all he can do, cannot sufficiently pay 
it But all these give no authority, no right of 
making laws to any one over him from whom 
they are owing. And it is plain all this is due, 
not to the bare title of father* f 



as has been said, it is owing to the mother too, 
but because these obligations to parents, and 
the degrees of what is required of children, may 
be varied by the different care and kindness 
trouble and expense, is often employed upon 
one child more than another. 

71. This shows the reason how it comes to 
pass that parents in societies, where they them- 
selves are subjects, retain a power over their 
children and have as much right to their sub- 
jection as those who are in the state of Nature, 
which could not possibly be if all political power 
were only paternal, and that, in truth, they 
were one and the same thing; for then, all pa- 
ternal power being in the prince, the subject 
could naturally have none of it. But these two 
powers, political and paternal, are so perfectly 
distinct and separate, and built upon so differ- 
ent foundations, and given to so different ends, 
that every subject that is a father has as much a 
paternal power over his children as the prince 
has over his. And every prince that has parents 
owes them as much filial duty and obedience as 
the meanest of his subjects do to theirs, and can 
therefore contain not any part or degree of that 
kind of dominion which a prince or magistrate 
has over his subject. 

72. Though the obligation on the parents to 
bring up their children, and the obligation on 
children to honour their parents, contain all the 
power, on the one hand, and submission on Jhe 
other, which are proper to this relation, yet 
there is another power ordinarily in the father, 
whereby he has a tie on the obedience of his 
children, which, though it be common to him 
with other men, yet the occasions of showing it, 
almost constantly happening to fathers in their 
private families and in instances of it elsewhere 
being rare, and less taken notice of, it passes in 
the world for a part of "paternal jurisdiction." 
And this is the power men generally have to 
bestow their estates on those who please them 
best. The possession of the father being the ex- 
pectation and inheritance of the children ordi- 
narily, in certain proportions, according to the 
law and custom of each country, yet it is com- 
monly in the father's power to bestow it with a 
more sparing or liberal hand, according as the 
behaviour of this or that child hath comported 
with his will and humour. 

73. This is no small tie to the obedience of 
children; and there being always annexed to 
the enjoyment of land a submission to the gov- 
ernment of the country of which that land is a 
part, it has been commonly supposed that a fa- 
ther couM oblige his posterity to that govern- 



CONCERNING CIVIL GOVERNMENT 



41 



ment of which he himself was a subject, that his 
compact held them; whereas, it being only a 
necessary condition annexed to the land which 
is under that government, reaches only those 
who will take it on that condition, and so is no 
natural tie or engagement, but a voluntary sub- 
mission; for every man's children being, by Na- 
ture, as free as himself or any of his ancestors 
ever were, may, whilst they are in that freedom, 
choose what society they will join themselves to, 
what commonwealth they will put themselves 
under. But if they will enjoy the inheritance of 
their ancestors, they must take it on the same 
terms their ancestors had it, and submit to all 
the conditions annexed to such a possession. By 
this power, indeed, fathers oblige their children 
to obedience to themselves even when they are 
past minority, and most commonly, too, sub-, 
ject them to this or that political power. But 
neither of these by any peculiar right of father- 
hood, but by the reward they have in their 
hands to enforce and recompense such a com- 
pliance, and is no more power than what a 
Frenchman has over an Englishman, who, by 
the hopes of an estate he will leave him, will 
certainly have a strong tie on his obedience; and 
if when it is left him, he will enjoy it, he must 
certainly take it upon the conditions annexed to 
the possession of land in that country where it 
lies, whether it be France or England. 

74. To conclude, then, though the father's 
power of commanding extends no farther than 
the minority of his children, and to a degree 
only fit for the discipline and government of 
that age; and though that honour and respect, 
and all that which the Latins called piety, 
which they indispensably owe to their parents all 
their lifetime, and in all estates, with all that 
support and defence, is due to them, gives the 
father no power of governing .*., making laws 
and exacting penalties on his children; though 
by this he has no dominion over the property or 
actions of his son, yet it is obvious to conceive 
how easy it was, in the first ages of the world, 
and in places still where the thinness of people 
gives families leave to separate into unpossessed 
quarters, and they have room to remove and 
plant themselves in yet vacant habitations, for 
the father of the family to become the prince of 
it; 1 he had been a ruler from the beginning of 

le< It is no improbable opinion, therefore, which 
the arch-philosopher was of, That the chief person 
in every household was always, as it were, a king; 
so when numbers of households joined themselves 
in civil societies together, kings were the first kind 
of governors among them, which is also, as it 
seemeth, the reason why the name of fathers con- 



the infancy of his children; and when they were 
grown up, since without some government it 
would be hard for them to live together, it was 
likeliest it should, by the express or tacti con- 
sent of the children, be in the father, where it 
seemed, without any change, barely to continue. 
And when, indeed, nothing more was required 
to it than the permitting the father to exercise 
alone in his family that executive power of the 
law of Nature which every free man naturally 
hath, and by that permission resigning up 
to him a monarchical power whilst they re- 
mained in it. But that this was not by any pa- 
ternal right, but only by the consent of his chil- 
dren, is evident from hence, that nobody doubts 
but if a stranger, whom chance or business had 
brought to his family, had there killed any of 
his children, or committed any other act, he 
might condemn and put him to death, or other- 
wise have punished him as well as any of his 
children, which was impossible he should do by 
virtue of any paternal authority over one who 
was not his child, but by virtue of that execu- 
tive power of the law of Nature which, as a man, 
he had a right to; and he alone could punish 
him in his family where the respect of his chil- 
dren had laid by the exercise of such a power, 
to give way to the dignity and authority they 
were willing should remain in him above the 
rest of his family. 

75. Thus it was easy and almost natural for 
children, by a tacit and almost natural consent, 
to make way for the father's authority and gov- 
ernment. They had been accustomed in their 
childhood to follow his direction, and to refer 
their little differences to him; and when they 
were men, who was fitter to rule them? Their 
little properties and less covetousness seldom af- 
forded greater controversies; and when any 
should arise, where could they have a fitter um- 
pire than he, by whose care they had every one 
been sustained and brought up. and who had a 

tinued still in them, who of fathers were made 
rulers; as also the ancient custom of governors to 
do as Melchizedec; and being kings, to exercise the 
office of priests, which fathers did, at the first, 
grew, perhaps, by the same occasion. Howbeit, this 
is not the only kind of regimen that has been re- 
ceived in the world. The inconveniencies of one 
kind have caused sundry others to be devised, so 
that, in a word, all public regimen, of what kind 
soever, seemeth evidently to have risen from the 
deliberate advice, consultation and composition 
between men, judging it convenient and behove- 
ful, there being no impossibility in Nature, con- 
sidered by itself, but that man might have lived 
without any public regimen." Hooker, EccL Pol., 
i. 10. 



JOHN LOCKE 



tenderness for them all? It is no wonder that 
they made no distinction betwixt minority and 
full age, nor looked after one-and-twenty, or 
any other age, that might make them the free 
disposers of themselves and fortunes, when they 
could have no desire to be out of their pupilage. 
The government they had been under during it 
continued still to be more their protection than 
restraint; and they could nowhere find a greater 
security to their peace, liberties, and fortunes 
than in the rule of a father. 

76. Thus the natural fathers of families, by an 
insensible change, became the politic monarchs 
of them too; and as they chanced to live long, 
and leave able and worthy heirs for several suc- 
cessions or otherwise, so they laid the founda- 
tions of hereditary or elective kingdoms under 
several constitutions and manors, according as 
chance, contrivance, or occasions happened to 
mould them. But if princes have their titles in 
the father's right, and it be a sufficient proof of 
the natural right of fathers to political author- 
ity, because they commonly were those in whose 
hands we find, de facto, the exercise of govern- 
ment, I say, if this argument be good, it will as 
strongly prove that all princes, nay, princes 
only, ought to be priests, since it is as certain 
that in the beginning "the father of the family 
was priest, as that he was ruler in his own house- 
hold." 

Chap. VII. Of Political or Civil Society 

77. GOD, having made man such a creature that, 
in His own judgment it was not good for him 
to be alone, put him under strong obligations of 
necessity, convenience, and inclination, to drive 
him into society, as well as fitted him with un- 
derstanding and language to continue and en- 
joy it The first society was between man and 
wife, which gave beginning to that between 
parents and children, to which, in time, that 
between master and servant came to be added. 
And though all these might, and commonly did, 
meet together, and make up but one family, 
wherein the master or mistress of it had some 
sort of rule proper to a family, each of these, or 
all together, came short of "political society," 
as we shall see if we consider the different ends, 
ties, and bounds of each of these. 

78. Conjugal society is made by a voluntary 
rompact between man and woman, and though 
it consist chiefly in such a communion and right 
in one another's bodies as Is necessary to its 
chief eno^, procuration, yet it draw|Avi$i ft mu- 



of interests too, as necessary ot eliy to 



their care and affection, but also necessary to 
their common offspring, who have a right to be 
nourished and maintained by them till they are 
able to provide for themselves. 

79. For the end of conjunction between male 
and female being not barely procreation, but the 
continuation of the species, this conjunction be- 
twixt male and female ought to last, even after 
procreation, so long as is necessary to the nour- 
ishment and support of the young ones, who are 
to be sustained by those that got them till they 
are able to shift and provide for themselves. This 
rule, which the infinite wise Maker hath set to 
the works of His hands, we find the inferior crea- 
tures steadily obey. In those vivaporous animals 
whichfeed on grass the conjunction between male 
and female lasts no longer than the very act of 
copulation, because the teat of the dam being 
sufficient to nourish the young till it be able to 
feed on grass, the male only begets, but concerns 
not himself for the female or young, to whose 
sustenance he can contribute nothing. But in 
beasts of prey the conjunction lasts longer be- 
cause the dam, not being able well to subsist her- 
self and nourish her numerous offspring by her 
own prey alone (a more laborious as well as more 
dangerous way of living than by feeding on grass) , 
the assistance of the male is necessary to the 
maintenance of their common family, which can- 
not subsist till they are able to prey for them- 
selves, but by the joint care of male and female. 
The same is observed in all birds (except some 
domestic ones, where plenty of food excuses the 
cock from feeding and taking care of the young 
brood), whose young, needing food in the nest, 
the cock and hen continue mates till the young 
are able to use their wings and provide for them- 
selves. 

80. And herein, I think, lies the chief, if not 
the only reason, why the male and female in 
mankind are tied to a longer conjunction than 
other creatures viz., because the female is cap- 
able of conceiving, and, de facto, is commonly 
with child again, and brings forth too a new 
birth, long before the former is out of a depend- 
ency for support on his parents' help and able to 
shift for himself, and has all the assistance due 
to him from his parents, whereby the father, who 
is bound to take care for those he hath begot, is 
under an obligation to continue in conjugal so- 
ciety with the same woman longer than other 
creatures, whose young, being able to subsist of 
themselves before the time of procreation returns 
again, the conjugal bond dissolves of itself, and 
they a* at liberty till Hymen* at his usual an- 
season, sunmK^asthem again to choose 



CONCERNING CIVIL GOVERNMENT 



43 



new mates. Wherein one cannot but admire the 
wisdom of the great Creator, who, having given 
to man an ability to lay up for the future as well 
as supply the present necessity, hath made it nec- 
essary that society of man and wife should be 
more lasting than of male and female amongst 
other creatures, that so their industry might be 
encouraged, and their interest better united, to 
make provision and lay up goods for their com- 
mon issue, which uncertain mixture, or easy and 
frequent solutions of conjugal society, would 
mightily disturb. 

81. But though these are ties upon mankind 
which make the conjugal bonds more firm and 
lasting in a man than the other species of ani- 
mals, yet it would give one reason to inquire why 
this compact, where procreation and education 
are secured and inheritance taken care for, may 
not be made determinable, either by consent, or 
at a certain time, or upon certain conditions, as 
well as any other voluntary compacts, there be- 
ing no necessity, in the nature of the thing, nor 
to the ends of it, that it should always be for life 
I mean, to such as are under no restraint of 
any positive law which ordains all such contracts 
to be perpetual. 

82. But the husband and wife, though they 
have but one common concern, yet having dif- 
ferent understandings, will unavoidably some- 
times have different wills too. It therefore being 
necessary that the last determination (Y.^., the 
rule) should be placed somewhere, it naturally 
falls to the man's share as the abler and the 
stronger. But this, reaching but to the things of 
their common interest and property, leaves the 
wife in the full and true possession of what by 
contract is her peculiar right, and at least gives 
the husband no more power over her than she 
has over his life; the power of the husband being 
so far from that of an absolute monarch that the 
wife has, in many cases, a liberty to separate 
from him where natural right or their contract 
allows it, whether that contract be made by them- 
selves in the state of Nature or by the customs or 
laws of the country they live in, and the children, 
upon such separation, fall to the father or moth- 
er's lot as such contract does determine. 

83. For all the ends of marriage being to be 
obtained under politic government, as well as in 
the state of Nature, the civil magistrate doth not 
abridge the right or power of either, naturally 
necessary to those ends viz,, procreation and 
mutual support and assistance whilst they are 
together, but only decides any controversy that 
may arise between man and wife about them. If 
it were otherwise* and that absolute sovereignty 



and power of life and death naturally belonged 
to the husband, and were necessary to the soci- 
ety between man and wife, there could be no 
matrimony in any of these countries where the 
husband is allowed no such absolute authority. 
But the ends of matrimony requiring no such 
power in the husband, it was not at all necessary 
to it. The condition of conjugal society put it 
not in him; but whatsoever might consist with 
procreation and support of the children till they 
could shift for themselves mutual assistance, 
comfort, and maintenance might be varied and 
regulated by that contract which first united 
them in that society, nothing being necessary to 
any society that is not necessary to the ends for 
which it is made. 

84. The society betwixt parents and children, 
and the distinct rights and powers belonging re- 
spectively to them, I have treated of so largely 
in the foregoing chapter that I shall not here 
need to say anything of it; and I think it is plain 
that it is far different from a politic society. 

85. Master and servant are names as old as 
history, but given to those of far different con- 
dition; for a free man makes himself a servant to 
another by selling him for a certain time the ser- 
vice he undertakes to do in exchange for wages 
he is to receive; and though this commonly puts 
him into the family of his master, and under the 
ordinary discipline thereof, yet it gives the mas- 
ter but a temporary power over him, and no 
greater than what is contained in the contract 
between them. But there is another sort of ser- 
vant which by a peculiar name we call slaves, 
who being captives taken in a just war are, by 
the right of Nature, subjected to the absolute 
dominion and arbitrary power of their masters. 
These men having, as I sayj forfeited their lives 
and, with it, their liberties, and lost their estates, 
and being in the state of slavery, not capable of 
any property, cannot in that state be considered 
as any part of civil society, the chief end where- 
of is the preservation of property. 

86. Let us therefore consider a master of a 
family with all these subordinate relations of 
wife, children, servants and slaves, united under 
the domestic rule of a family, with what resem- 
blance soever it may have in its order, offices, 
and number too, with a little commonwealth, 
yet is very far from it both in its constitution, 
power, and end; or if it must be thought a mon- 
archy, and the paterfamilias the absolute mon- 
arch in it, absolute monarchy will have but a 
very shattered and short power, when it is plain 
by what has been said before, that the master of 
the family has a very distinct and differently lim- 



44 30HN 

ited power both as to time and extent over those 
several persons that are in it; for excepting the 
slave (and the family is as much a family, and 
bis power as paterfamilias as great, whether there 
be any slaves in his family or no) he has no leg- 
islative power of life and death over any of them, 
and none too but what a mistress of a family may 
have as well as he. And he certainly can have 
no absolute power over the whole family who has 
but a very limited one over every individual in 
it. But how a family, or any other society of men, 
differ from that which is properly political so- 
ciety, we shall best see by considering wherein 
political society itself consists. 

87. Man being born, as has been proved, with 
a title to perfect freedom and an uncontrolled 
enjoyment of all the rights and privileges of the 
law of Nature, equally with any other man, or 
number of men in the world, hath by nature a 
power not only to preserve his property that 
is, his life, liberty, and estate, against the injuries 
and attempts of other men, but to judge of and 
punish the breaches of that law in others, as he 
is persuaded the offence deserves, even with 
death itself, in crimes where the heinousness of 
the fact, in his opinion, requires it. But because 
no political society can be, nor subsist, without 
having in itself the power to preserve the prop- 
erty, and in order thereunto punish the offences 
of all those of that society, there, and there only, 
is political society where every one of the mem- 
bers hath quitted this natural power, resigned it 
up into the hands of the community in all cases 
that exclude him not from appealing for protec- 
tion to the law established by it. And thus all 
private judgment of every particular member 
being excluded, the community comes to be um- 
pire, and by understanding indifferent rules and 
men authorised by the community for their ex- 
ecution, decides all the differences that may hap- 
pen between any members of that society con- 
cerning any matter of right, and punishes those 
offences which any member hath committed 
against the society with such penalties as the law 
has established; whereby it is easy to discern 
who are, and are not, in political society together. 
Those who are united into one body, and have a 
common established law and judicature to ap- 
peal to, with authority to decide controversies be- 
tween them and punish offenders, are in civil 
society one with another; but those who have no 
such common appeal, I mean on earth, are still in 
the state of Nature, each being where there is no 
other, judge lor himself and executioner; which 
is, as I havefcefoanesbowedit, the perfect state of 
Nature. 5 



LOCKE 

88. And thus the commonwealth comes by a 
power to set down what punishment shall be- 
long to the several transgressions they think 
worthy of it, committed amongst the members 
of that society (which is the power of making 
laws), as well as it has the power to punish any 
injury done unto any of its members by any one 
that is not of it (which is the power of war and 
peace); and all this for the preservation of the 
property of all the members of that society, as 
far as is possible. But though every man entered 
into society has quitted his power to punish of- 
fences against the law of Nature in prosecution 
of his own private judgment, yet with the judg- 
ment of offences which he has given up to the 
legislative, in all cases where he can appeal to 
the magistrate, he has given up a right to the 
commonwealth to employ his force for the exe- 
cution of the judgments of the commonwealth 
whenever he shall be called to it, which, indeed, 
are his own judgments, they being made by him- 
self or his representative. And herein we have 
the original of the legislative and executive pow- 
er of civil society, which is to judge by standing 
laws how far offences are to be punished when 
committed within the commonwealth; and also 
by occasional judgments founded on the present 
circumstances of the fact, how far injuries from 
without are to be vindicated, and in both these 
to employ all the force of all the members when 
there shall be need. 

89. Wherever, therefore, any number of men 
so unite into one society as to quit every one his 
executive power of the law of Nature, and to re- 
sign it to the public, there and there only is a po- 
litical or civil society. And this is done wherever 
any number of men, in the state of Nature, en- 
ter into society to make one people one body 
politic under one supreme government: or else 
when any one joins himself to, and incorporates 
with any government already made. For hereby 
he authorises the society, or which is all one, the 
legislative thereof, to make laws for him as the 
public good of the society shall require, to the 
execution whereof his own assistance (as to his 
own decrees) is due. And this puts men out of a 
state of Nature into that of a commonwealth, by 
setting up a judge on earth with authority to de- 
termine all the controversies and redress the in- 
juries that may happen to any member of the 
commonwealth, which judge is the legislative or 
magistrates appointed by it. And wherever there 
are any number of men, however associated, 
that have no such decisive power to appeal to, 
there they are still in the state of Nature. 

90. And hence it is evident that absolute mon- 



CONCERNING CIVIL GOVERNMENT 



45 



archy, which by some men is counted for the 
only government in the world, is indeed incon- 
sistent with civil society, and so can be no form 
of civil government at all. For the end of civil 
society being to avoid and remedy those incon- 
veniencies of the state of Nature which neces- 
sarily follow from every man's being judge in his 
own case, by setting up a known authority to 
which every one of that society may appeal up- 
on any injury received, or controversy that may 
arise, and which every one of the society ought 
to obey. 1 Wherever any persons are who have 
not such an authority to appeal to, and decide 
any difference between them there, those per- 
sons are still in the state of Nature. And so is ev- 
ery absolute prince in respect of those who are 
under his dominion. 

91. For he being supposed to have all, both 
legislative and executive, power in himself alone, 
there is no judge to be found, no appeal lies open 
to any one, who may fairly and indifferently, 
and with authority decide, and from whence re- 
lief and redress may be expected of any injury 
or inconveniency that may be suffered from him, 
or by his order. So that such a man, however 
entitled, Czar, or Grand Signior, or how you 
please, is as much in the state of Nature, with 
all under his dominion, as he is with the rest of 
mankind. For wherever any two men are, who 
have no standing rule and common judge to ap- 
peal to on earth, for the determination of con- 
troversies of right betwixt them, there they are 
still in the state of Nature, and under all the in- 
conveniencies of it, with only this woeful differ- 
ence to the subject, or rather slave of an absolute 
prince. 2 That whereas, hi the ordinary state of 

1 "The public power of all society is above every 
soul contained in the same society, and the princi- 
pal use of that power is to give laws unto all that 
are under it, which laws in such cases we must 
obey, unless there be reason showed which may 
necessarily enforce that the law of reason or of God 
doth enjoin the contrary." Hooker, Eccl. Pol., i. 16. 

2 "To take away all such mutual grievances, in- 
juries, and wrongs i.e., such as attend men in the 
state of Nature, there was no way but only by 
growing into composition and agreement amongst 
themselves by ordaining some kind of government 
public, and by yielding themselves subject there- 
unto, that unto whom they granted authority to 
rule and govern, by them the peace, tranquillity, 
and happy estate of the rest might be procured. 
Men always knew that where force and injury was 
offered, they might be defenders of themselves. 
They knew that, however men may seek their own 
commodity, yet if this were done with injury unto 
others, it was not to be suffered, but by all men and 
all good means to be withstood. Finally, they knew 
that no man might, in reason, take upon him to 
determine his own right, and according to his own 



Nature, he has a liberty to judge of his right, ac- 
cording to the best of his power to maintain it; 
but whenever his property is invaded by the will 
and order of his monarch, he has not only no 
appeal, as those in society ought to have, but, as 
if he were degraded from the common state of 
rational creatures, is denied a liberty to judge 
of, or defend his right, and so is exposed to all 
the misery and inconveniencies that a man can 
fear from one, who being in the unrestrained 
state of Nature, is yet corrupted with flattery 
and armed with power. 

92. For he that thinks absolute power purifies 
men's blood, and corrects the baseness of hu- 
man nature, need read but the history of this, or 
any other age, to be convinced to the countrary. 
He that would have been insolent and injurious 
in the woods of America would not probably be 
much better on a throne, where perhaps learn- 
ing and religion shall be found out to justify all 
that he shall do to his subjects, and the sword 
presently silence all those that dare question it. 
For what the protection of absolute monarchy 
is, what kind of fathers of their countries it makes 
princes to be, and to what a degree of happiness 
and security it carries civil society, where this 
sort of government is grown to perfection, he 
that will look into the late relation of Ceylon 
may easily see. 

93. In absolute monarchies, indeed, as well as 
other governments of the world, the subjects have 
an appeal to the law, and judges to decide any 
controversies, and restrain any violence that may 
happen betwixt the subjects themselves, one 
amongst another. This every one thinks neces- 
sary, and believes; he deserves to be thought a 
declared enemy to society and mankind who 
should go about to take it away. But whether 
this be from a true love of mankind and society, 
and such a charity as we owe all one to another, 
there is reason to doubt For this is no more than 
what every man, who loves his own power, prof- 
it, or greatness, may, and naturally must do, keep 
those animals from hurting or destroying one 
another who labour and drudge only for his 
pleasure and advantage; and so are taken care 
of, not out of any love the master has for them, 
but love of himself, and the profit they bring 

determination proceed in maintenance thereof, in 
as much as every man is towards himself, and 
them whom he greatly affects, partial; and there- 
fore, that strifes and troubles would be endless, ex- 
cept they gave their common consent, all to be 
ordered by some whom they should agree upon, 
without which consent there would be no reason 
that one man should take upon him to be lord or 
judge over another." Hooker, ibid. 10. 



4 6 



JOHN LOCKE 



him. For if it be asked what security, what fence 
is there in such a state against the violence and 
oppression of this absolute ruler, the very ques- 
tion can scarce be borne. They are ready to tell 
you that it deserves death only to ask after safe- 
ty. Betwixt subject and subject, they will grant, 
there must be measures, laws, and judges for 
their mutual peace and security. But as for the 
ruler, he ought to be absolute, and is above all 
such circumstances; because he has a power to 
do more hurt and wrong, it is right when he 
does it. To ask how you may be guarded from 
or injury on that side, where the strongest hand 
is to do it, is presently the voice of faction and 
rebellion. As if when men, quitting the state of 
Nature, entered into society, they agreed that 
all of them but one should be under the restraint 
of laws; but that he should still retain all the lib- 
erty of the state of Nature, increased with pow- 
er, and made licentious by impunity. This is to 
think that men are so foolish that they take care 
to avoid what mischiefs may be done them by 
polecats or foxes, but are content, nay, think it 
safety, to be devoured by lions. 

94. But, whatever flatterers may talk to amuse 
people's understandings, it never hinders men 
from feeling; and when they perceive that any 
man, in what station soever, is out of the bounds 
of the civil society they are of, and that they 
have no appeal, on earth, against any harm they 
may receive from him, they are apt to think 
themselves in the state of Nature, in respect of 
him whom they find to be so; and to take care, as 
soon as they can, to have that safety and secur- 
ity, in civil society, for which it was first insti- 
tuted, and for which only they entered into it. 
And therefore, though perhaps at first, as shall 
be showed more at large hereafter, in the fol- 
lowing part of this discourse, some one good 
and excellent man having got a pre-eminency 
amongst the rest, had this deference paid to his 
goodness and virtue, as to a kind of natural au- 
thority, mat the chief rule, with arbitration of 
their differences, by a tacit consent devolved in- 
to his hands, without any other caution but the 
assurance they had of his uprightness and wis- 
dom; yet when time giving authority, and, as 
some men would persuade us, sacredness to cus- 
tosus, which the negligent and unforeseeing in- 
nocence of the first*ages began, had brought in 
successors of another stamp, the people finding 
tkeirpropertiesnot secure under the government 
as then it was 1 (whereas government has no other 

1 *< At d*e fet, when some certain kind of regi- 
mm was oece appointed, it may be that nothi 
was then frir^iCT thotigiit'Gpon foa: tiae manner 



end but the preservation of property), could nev- 
er be safe, nor at rest, nor think themselves in 
civil society, till the legislative was so placed in 
collective bodies of men, call them senate, par- 
liament, or what you please, by which means 
every single person became subject equally, with 
other the meanest men, to those laws, which he 
himself, as part of the legislative, had establish- 
ed; nor could any one, by his own authority, 
avoid the force of the law, when once made, nor 
by any pretence of superiority plead exemption, 
thereby to license his own, or the miscarriages 
of any of his dependants. No man in civil society 
can be exempted from the laws of it. For if any 
man may do what he thinks fit and there be no 
appeal on earth for redress or security against 
any harm he shall do, I ask whether he be not 
perfectly still in the state of Nature, and so can 
be no part or member of that civil society, un- 
less any one will say the state of Nature and civil 
society are one and the same thing, which I 
have never yet found any one so great a patron 
of anarchy as to affirm. 2 

Chap. VIII. Oj the Beginning of 
Political Societies 

95. MEN being, as has been said, by nature all 
free, equal, and independent, no one can be put 
out of this estate and subjected to the political 
power of another without his own consent, which 
is done by agreeing with other men, to join and 
unite into a community for their comfortable, 
safe, and peaceable living, one amongst anoth- 
er, in a secure enjoyment of their properties, and 
a greater security against any that are not of it. 
This any number of men may do, because it in- 
jures not the freedom of the rest; they are left, 
as they were, in the liberty of the state of Na- 
ture. When any number of men have so con- 
sented to make one community or government, 
they are thereby presently incorporated, and 
make one body politic, wherein the majority 
have a right to act and conclude the rest. 



governing, but all permitted unto their wisdom 
and discretion which were to rule till, by experi- 
ence, they found this for all parts very inconveni- 
ent, so as the thing which they had devised for a 
remedy did indeed but increase the sore which it 
should have cured. They saw that to live by one 
man's will became the cause of all men's misery. 
This constrained them to come unto laws wherein 
all men might see their duty beforehand, and know 
the penalties of transgressing them." Hooker, 
EccL Pol. i. 10. 

2 "Civil law, being the act of the whole body 
politic, doth therefore overrule each several part of 
body/' Hooker, Mid. 



CONCERNING CIVIL GOVERNMENT 



47 



96. For, when any number of men have, by 
the consent of every individual, made a commun- 
ity, they have thereby made that community 
one body, with a power to act as one body, which 
is only by the will and determination of the ma- 
jority. For that which acts any community, be- 
ing only the consent of the individuals of it, and 
it being one body, must move one way, it is nec- 
essary the body should move that way whither 
the greater force carries it, which is the consent 
of the majority, or else it is impossible it should 
act or continue one body, one community, which 
the consent of every individual that united into 
it agreed that it should; and so every one is 
bound by that consent to be concluded by the 
majority. And therefore we see that in assem- 
blies empowered to act by positive laws where 
no number is set by that positive law which em- 
powers them, the act of the majority passes for 
the act of the whole, and of course determines 
as having, by the law of Nature and reason, the 
power of the whole. 

97. And thus every man, by consenting with 
others to make one body politic under one gov- 
ernment, puts himself under an obligation to ev- 
ery one of that society to submit to the deter- 
mination of the majority, and to be concluded 
by it; or else this original compact, whereby he 
with others incorporates into one society, would 
signify nothing, and be no compact if he be left 
free and under no other ties than he was in be- 
fore in the state of Nature. For what appearance 
would there be of any compact? What new en- 
gagement if he were no farther tied by any de- 
crees of the society than he himself thought fit 
and did actually consent to? This would be still 
as great a liberty as he himself had before his 
compact, or any one else in the state of Nature, 
who may submit himself and consent to any acts 
of it if he thinks fit 

98. For if the consent of the majority shall not 
in reason be received as the act of the whole, 
and conclude every individual, nothing but the 
consent of every individual can make anything 
to be the act of the whole, which, considering 
the infirmities of health and avocations of busi- 
ness, which in a number though much less than 
that of a commonwealth, will necessarily keep 
many away from the public assembly; and the 
variety of opinions and contrariety of interests 
which unavoidably happen in all collections of 
men, it is next impossible ever to be had. And, 
therefore, if coming into society be upon such 
terms, it will be only like Cato's coming into 
the theatre, tanti&n ut tmet. Such a constitution 
as this A&ould mate tlie mighty leviathan of a 



shorter duration than the feeblest creatures, and 
not let it outlast the day it was born in, which 
cannot be supposed till we can think that ra- 
tional creatures should desire and constitute so- 
cieties only to be dissolved. For where the ma- 
jority cannot conclude the rest, there they can- 
not act as one body, and consequently will be 
immediately dissolved again. 

99. Whosoever, therefore, out of a state of Na- 
ture unite into a community, must be under- 
stood to give up all the power necessary to the 
ends for which they unite into society to the ma- 
jority of the community, unless they expressly 
agreed in any number greater than the major- 
ity. And this is done by barely agreeing to unite 
into one political society, which is all the com- 
pact that is, or needs be, between the individ- 
uals that enter into or make up a commonwealth . 
And thus, that which begins and actually con- 
stitutes any political society is nothing but the 
consent of any number of freemen capable of 
majority, to unite and incorporate into such a 
society. And this is that, and that only, which 
did or could give beginning to any lawful gov- 
ernment in the world. 

100. To this I find two objections made: i. 
That there are no instances to be found in story 
of a company of men, independent and equal 
one amongst another, that met together, and in 
this way began and set up a government 2. It is 
impossible of right that men should do so, be- 
cause all men, being born under government^ 
they are to submit to that, and are not at liberty 
to begin a new one. 

101. To the first there is this to answer: That 
it is not at all to be wondered that history gives 
us but a very little account of men that lived to- 
gether in the state of Nature. The inconveni- 
encies of that condition, and the love and want 
of society, no sooner brought any number of 
them together, but they presently united and in 
corporated if they designed to continue together. 
And if we may not suppose men ever to have 
been in the state of Nature, because we hear not 
much of them hi such a state, we may as well 
suppose the armies of Salmanasser or Xerxes 
were never children, because we hear little of 
them till they were men and embodied in armies. 
Government is everywhere antecedent to rec- 
ords, and letters seldom come in amongst a peo- 
ple till a long continuation of civil society has, 
by other more necessary arts, provided for their 
safety, ease, and plenty. And then they begin to 
look after the history of their founders, and search 
into their original when they have outlived the 
memory of it For it is with commonwealths as 



4 8 



JOHN LOCKE 



with particular persons, they are commonly ig- 
norant of their own births and infancies; and if 
they know anything of it, they are beholding for 
it to the accidental records that others have kept 
of it. And those that we have of the beginning of 
any polities in the world, excepting that of the 
Jews, where God Himself immediately interpos- 
ed, and which favours not at all paternal domin- 
ion, are all either plain instances of such a be- 
ginning as I have mentioned, or at least have 
manifest footsteps of it. 

102. He must show a strange inclination to 
deny evident matter of fact, when it agrees not 
with his hypothesis, who will not allow that the 
beginning of Rome and Venice were by the 
uniting together of several men, free and inde- 
pendent one of another, amongst whom there 
was no natural superiority or subjection. And if 
Josephus Acosta's word may be taken, he tells 
us that in many parts of America there was no 
government at all. "There are great and appar- 
ent conjectures," says he, "that these men [speak- 
ing of those of Peru] for a long time had neither 
kings nor commonwealths, but lived in troops, 
as they do this day in Florida the Gheriquanas, 
those of Brazil, and many other nations, which 
have no certain kings, but, as occasion is offered 
in peace or war, they choose their captains as 
they please" (lib. i. cap. 25). If it be said, that 
every man there was born subject to his father, 
or the head of his family, that the subjection due 
from a child to a father took away not his free- 
dom of uniting into what political society he 
thought fit, has been already proved; but be 
that as it will, these men, it is evident, were ac- 
tually free; and whatever superiority some pol- 
iticians now would place in any of them, they 
themselves claimed it not; but, by consent, were 
all equal, till, by the same consent, they set rulers 
over themselves. So that their politic societies 
all began from a voluntary union, and the mu- 
tual agreement of men freely acting in the choice 
of their governors and forms of government. 

103. And I hope those who went away from 
Sparta, with Palantus, mentioned by Justin, will 
be allowed to have been freemen independent 
one of another, and to have set up a government 
over themselves by their own consent. Thus I 
have given several examples out of history of 
people, free and in the state of Nature, that, be- 
ing met together, incorporated and began a com- 
monwealth. And if the want of such instances be 
an argument to prove that government were not 
nor could not be so begun, I suppose the con- 
tenders for paternal empire were better let it 
alone than, urge it against natural liberty; for if 



they can give so many instances out of history of 
governments begun upon paternal right, I think 
(though at least an argument from what has 
been to what should of right be of no great force) 
one might, without any great danger, yield them 
the cause. But if I might advise them in the case, 
they would do well not to search too much into 
the original of governments as they have begun 
de facto, lest they should find at the foundation 
of most of them something very little favourable 
to the design they promote, and such a power 
as they contend for. 

104. But, to conclude: reason being plain on 
our side that men are naturally free; and the ex- 
amples of history showing that the governments 
of the world, that were begun in peace, had their 
beginning laid on that foundation, and were 
made by the consent of the people; there can be 
little room for doubt, either where the right is, 
or what has been the opinion or practice of man- 

. kind about the first erecting of governments. 

105. I will not deny that if we look back, as 
far as history will direct us, towards the original 
of commonwealths., we shall generally find them 
under the government and administration of one 
man. And I am also apt to believe that where a 
family was numerous enough to subsist by it- 
self, and continued entire together, without mix- 
ing with others, as it often happens, where there 
is much land and few people, the government 
commonly began in the father. For the father 
having, by the law of Nature, the same power, 
with every man else, to punish, as he thought 
fit, any offences against that law, might thereby 
punish his transgressing children, even when they 
were men, and out of their pupilage; and they 
were very likely to submit to his punishment, 
and all join with him against the offender in their 
turns, giving him thereby power to execute his 
sentence against any transgression, and so, in ef- 
fect, make him the law-maker and governor over 
all that remained in conjunction with his fam- 
ily. He was fittest to be trusted; paternal affec- 
tion secured their property and interest under 
his care, and the custom of obeying him in their 
childhood made it easier to submit to him rather 
than any other. If, therefore, they must have 
one to rule them, as government is hardly to be 
avoided amongst men that live together, who so 
likely to be the man as he that was their com- 
mon father, unless negligence, cruelty, or any 
other defect of mind or body, made him unfit 
for it? But when either the father died, and left 
his next heir for want of age, wisdom, cour- 
age a or any other qualities less fit for rule, or 
where several families met and consented to con- 



CONCERNING CIVIL GOVERNMENT 



49 



tinue together, there, it is not to be doubted, 
but they used their natural freedom to set up 
him whom they judged the ablest and most like- 
ly to rule well over them. Conformable hereun- 
to we find the people of America, who living 
out of the reach of the conquering swords and 
spreading domination of the two great empires 
of Peru and Mexico enjoyed their own nat- 
ural freedom, though, cateris paribus, they com- 
monly prefer the heir of their deceased king; 
yet, if they find him any way weak or incapable, 
they pass him by, and set up the stoutest and 
bravest man for their ruler. 

1 06. Thus, though looking back as far as rec- 
ords give us any account of peopling the world, 
and the history of nations, we commonly find 
the government to be in one hand, yet it destroys 
not that which I affirm viz., that the begin- 
ning of politic society depends upon the consent 
of the individuals to join into and make one 
society, who, when they are thus incorpor- 
ated, might set up what form of government 
they thought fit. But this having given occasion 
to men to mistake and think that, by Nature, 
government was monarchical, and belonged to 
the father, it may not be amiss here to consider 
why people, in the beginning, generally pitched 
upon this form, which, though perhaps the fa- 
ther's pr e-eminency might, in the first institution 
of some commonwealths, give a rise to and place 
in the beginning the power in one hand, yet it is 
plain that the reason that continued the form of 
government in a single person was not any re- 
gard or respect to paternal authority, since all 
petty monarchies that is, almost all monarchies, 
near their original, have been commonly, at 
least upon occasion, elective. 

107. First, then, in the beginning of things, 
the father's government of the childhood of those 
sprung from him having accustomed them to 
the rule of one man, and taught them that where 
it was exercised with care and skill, with affec- 
tion and love to those under it, it was sufficient 
to procure and preserve men (all the political 
happiness they sought for in society), it was no 
wonder that they should pitch upon and natur- 
ally run into that form of government which, 
from their infancy, they had been all accustomed 
to, and which, by experience, they had found 
both easy and safe. To whkh if we add, that 
monarchy being simple and most obvious to men, 
whom neither experience had instructed in forms 
of government, nor the ambition or insolence of 
empire had taught to beware of the encroach- 
ments of prerogative or the inconveniencies of 
absolute power, which monarchy, in succession, 



was apt to lay claim to and bring upon them; it 
was not at all strange that they should not much 
trouble themselves to think of methods of re- 
straining any exorbitances of those to whom they 
had given the authority over them, and of bal- 
ancing the power of government by placing sev- 
eral parts of it in different hands. They had nei- 
ther felt the oppression of tyrannical dominion, 
nor did the fashion of the age, nor their posses- 
sions or way of living, which afforded little mat- 
ter for covetousness or ambition, give them any 
reason to apprehend or provide against it; and, 
therefore, it is no wonder they put themselves 
into such a frame of government as was not 
only, as I said, most obvious and simple, but also 
best suited to their present state and condition, 
which stood more in need of defence against for- 
eign invasions and injuries than of multiplicity 
of laws where there was but very little property, 
and wanted not variety of rulers and abundance 
of officers to direct and look after their execu- 
tion where there were but few trespassers and 
few offenders. Since, then, those who liked one 
another so well as to join into society cannot but 
be supposed to have some acquaintance and 
friendship together, and some trust one in an- 
other, they could not but have greater appre- 
hensions of others than of one another; and, 
therefore, their first care and thought cannot but 
be supposed to be, how to secure themselves 
against foreign force. It was natural for them to 
put themselves under a frame of government 
which might best serve to that end, and choose 
the wisest and bravest man to conduct them in 
their wars and lead them out against their ene- 
mies, and in this chiefly be their ruler. 

1 08. Thus we see that the kings of the Indians, 
in America, which is still a pattern of the first 
ages in Asia and Europe, whilst the inhabitants 
were too few for the country, and want of peo- 
ple and money gave men no temptation to en- 
large their possessions of land or contest for wid- 
er extent of ground, are little more than gener- 
als of their armies; and though they command 
absolutely in war, yet at home, and in time of 
peace, they exercise very little dominion, and 
have but a very moderate sovereignty, the reso- 
lutions of peace and war being ordinarily either 
in the people or in a council, though the war it- 
self, which admits not of pluralities of governors, 
naturally evolves the command into the king's 
sole authority. 

109. And thus, in Israel itself } the chief busi- 
ness of their judges and first kings seems to have 
been to be captains in war and leaders of their 
armies, which (besides what is signified by "go- 



50 

ing out and in before the people," which was, to 
march forth to war and home again at the heads 
of their forces) appears plainly in the story of 
Jephtha. The Ammonites making war upon Is- 
rael, the Gileadites, in fear, send to Jephtha, a 
bastard of their family, whom they had cast off, 
and article with him, if he will assist them 
against the Ammonites, to make him their ruler, 
which they do in these words: "And the people 
made him head and captain over them" (Judges 
1 1. 1 1), which was, as it seems, all one as to be 
judge. "And he judged Israel" (Judges 12. 7) 
that is, was their captain-general "six years." 
So when Jotham upbraids the Shechemites with 
the obligation they had to Gideon, who had been 
their judge and ruler, he tells them: "He fought 
for you, and adventured his life for, and deliv- 
ered you out of the hands of Midian" (Judges 
9. 1 7). Nothing mentioned of him but what he 
did as a general, and, indeed, that is all is found 
in his history, or in any of the rest of the Judges. 
And Abimelech particularly is called king, 
though at most he was but their general. And 
when, being weary of the ill-conduct of Samuel's 
sons, the children of Israel desired a king, "like 
all the nations, to judge them, and to go out be- 
fore them, and to fight their battles" (r Sam. 
8. 20), God, granting their desire, says to Sam- 
uel, "I will send thee a man, and thou shalt 
anoint him to be captain over my people Israel, 
that he may save my people out of the hands of 
the Philistines" (ch. 9. 1 6). As if the only busi- 
ness of a king had been to lead out their armies 
and fight in their defence; and, accordingly, at 
his inauguration, pouring a vial of oil upon him, 
declares to Saul that "the Lord had anointed 
htm to be captain over his inheritance" (ch. 10. 
i). And therefore those who, after Saul being 
solemnly chosen and saluted king by the tribes 
at Mispah, were unwilling to have him their 
king, make no other objection but this, "How 
shall this man save us?" (ch. 10. 27), as if they 
should have said: "This man is unfit to be our 
king, not having skiTT and conduct enough in 
war to be able to defend us." And when God re- 
solved to transfer the government to David, it is 
in these words: "But now thy kingdom shall not 
continue : the Lord hath sought Him a man after 
His own heart, and the Lord hath commanded 
Him to be captain over His people" (ch. 13. 14). 
As M "die whole kingly authority were nothing 
else but to 'be their general; and therefore the 
tribes idbo had sttrck to SauTs family, aad op- 
, w&ez* they aan& ; t Hebron 



JOHN LOCKE 



with terms:of submission to him,, they teO Mm, 



him as to their king, that he was, in effect, their 
king in Saul's time, and therefore they had no 
reason but to receive him as their king now. 
"Also," say they, "in time past, when Saul was 
king over us, thou wast he that leddest out and 
broughtest in Israel, and the Lord said unto thee, 
Thou shalt feed my people Israel, and thou shalt 
be a captain over Israel." 

1 10. Thus, whether a family, by degrees, grew 
up into a commonwealth, and the fatherly au- 
thority being continued on to the elder son, 
every one in his turn growing up under it tacitiy 
submitted to it, and the easiness and equality of 
it not offending any one, every one acquiesced 
till time seemed to have confirmed it and settled 
a right of succession by prescription; or whether 
several families, or the descendants of several 
families, whom chance, neighbourhood, or bus- 
iness brought together, united into society; the 
need of a general whose conduct might defend 
them against their enemies in war, and the great 
confidence the innocence and sincerity of that 
poor but virtuous age, such as are almost all 
those which begin governments that ever come 
to last in the world, gave men one of another, 
made the first beginners of commonwealths gen- 
erally put the rule into one man's hand, with- 
out any other express limitation or restraint but 
what the nature of the thing and the end of gov- 
ernment required. It was given them for the pub- 
lic good and safety, and to those ends, in the in- 
fancies of commonwealths, they commonly used 
it; and unless they had done so, young societies 
could not have subsisted. Without such nursing 
fathers, without this care of the governors, all 
governments would have sunk under the weak- 
ness and infirmities of their infancy, the prince 
and the people had soon perished together. 

in. But the golden age (though before vain 
ambition, and amor sceltratus habendi, evil con- 
cupiscence had corrupted men's minds into a 
mistake of true power and honour) had more 
virtue, and consequently better governors, as well 
as less vicious subjects; and there was then no 
stretching prerogative on the one side to oppress 
the people, nor, consequently, on the other,' any 
dispute about privilege, to lessen or restrain the 
power of the magistrate; and so no contest be- 
twixt rulers and people about governors or gov- 
ernment. 1 Yet, when ambition and luxury, in 

x "At the first, when some certain kind of regi- 
men was one* approved, it may be that nothing 
was then further thought upon for the jnauncr of 
governing, but all permitted unto tbeir wisdom 
and discretion, which were to rule till, by experi- 
ti&c, t&ey feted this for all parts very inconven- 

had devised for a 



CONCERNING CIVIL GOVERNMENT 



future ages, would retain and increase the pow- 
er, without doing the business for which it was 
given, and aided by flattery, taught princes to 
have distinct and separate interests from their 
people, men found it necessary to examine more 
carefully the original and rights of government, 
and to find out ways to restrain the exorbitances 
and prevent the abuses of that power, which 
they having entrusted in another's hands, only 
for their own good, they found was made use of 
to hurt them. 

112. Thus we may see how probable it is that 
people that were naturally free, and, by their 
own consent, either submitted to the govern- 
ment of their father, or united together, out of 
different families, to make a government, should 
generally put the rule into one man's hands, and 
choose to be under the conduct of a single per- 
son, without so much, as by express conditions, 
limiting or regulating his power, which they 
thought safe enough in his honesty and prudence; 
though they never dreamed of monarchy being 
jure DivinO) which we never heard of among man- 
kind till it was revealed to us by the divinity of 
this last age, nor ever allowed paternal power 
to have a right to dominion or to be the foun- 
dation of all government. And thus much may 
suffice to show that, as far as we have any light 
from history, we have reason to conclude that 
all peaceful beginnings of government have been 
laid in the consent of the people. I say "peace- 
ful," because I shall have occasion, in another 
place, to speak of conquest, which some esteem 
a way of beginning of governments. 

The other objection, I find, urged against the 
beginning of polities, in the way I have men- 
tioned, is this, viz.: 

1 13. "That all men being born under govern- 
ment, some or other, it is impossible any of them 
should ever be free and at liberty to unite to- 
gether and begin a new one, or ever be able to 
erect a lawful government," If this argument be 
good, I ask. How came so many lawful mon- 
archies into the world? For if anybody, upon 
this supposition, can show me any one man, in 
any age of the world, free to begin a lawful mon- 
archy, I will be bound to show him ten other 
free men at liberty, at the same time, to unite 
and begin a new government under a regal or 

remedy did indeed but increase the sore which it 
should have cured. They saw that to live by one 
man's will became the cause of all men's misery. 
Tnis constrained them to come unto laws wherein 
all men might set their duty beforehand, and know 
the penalties of transgressing them." Hooker, 



any other form. It being demonstration that if 
any one born under the dominion of another 
may be so free as to have a right to command 
others in a new and distinct empire, every one 
that is born under the dominion of another may 
be so free too, and may become a ruler or sub- 
ject of a distinct separate government. And so, 
by this their own principle, either all men, how- 
ever born, are free, or else there is but one law- 
ful prince, one lawful government in the world; 
and then they have nothing to do but barely to 
show us which that is, which, when they have 
done, I doubt not but all mankind will easily 
agree to pay obedience to him. 

1 14. Though it be a sufficient answer to their 
objection to show that it involves them in the 
same difficulties that it doth those they use it 
against, yet I shall endeavour to discover the 
weakness of this argument a little farther. 

"All men," say they, "are born under govern- 
ment, and therefore they cannot be at liberty to 
begin a new one. Every one is born a subject to 
his father or his prince, and is therefore under 
the perpetual tie of subjection and allegiance." 
It is plain mankind never owned nor considered 
any such natural subjection that they were born 
in, to one or to the other, that tied them, with- 
out their own consents, to a subjection to them 
and their heirs. 

115. For there are no examples so frequent in 
history, both sacred and profane, as those of men 
withdrawing themselves and their obedience 
from the jurisdiction they were born under, and 
the family or community they were bred up in, 
and setting up new governments in other places, 
from whence sprang all that number of petty com- 
monwealths in the beginning of ages, and^vhich 
always multiplied as long as there was room 
enough, till the stronger or more fortunate swal- 
lowed the weaker; and those great ones, again 
breaking to pieces, dissolved into lesser domin- 
ions; all which are so many testimonies against 
paternal sovereignty, and plainly prove that it 
was not the natural right of the father descend- 
ing to his heirs that made governments in the 
beginning; since it was impossible, upon that 
ground, there should have been so many little 
kingdoms but only one universal monarchy if 
men had not been at liberty to separate them- 
selves from their families and their government, 
be it what it will that was set up in it, and go 
and make distinct commonwealths and other 
governments as they thought fit. 

1 1 6. This has been the practice of the world 
from its first beginning to this day; nor is it now 
any more hindrance to the freedom of mankind. 



JOHN LOCKE 



that they are born under constituted and ancient 
polities that have established laws and set forms 
of government, than if they were born in the 
woods amongst the unconfined inhabitants that 
run loose in them. For those who would per- 
suade us that by being born under any govern- 
ment we are naturally subjects to it, and have 
no more any title or pretence to the freedom of 
the state of Nature, have no other reason (bating 
that of paternal power, which we have already 
answered) to produce for it, but only because 
our fathers or progenitors passed away their nat- 
ural liberty, and thereby bound up themselves 
and their posterity to a perpetual subjection to 
the government which they themselves submit- 
ted to. It is true that whatever engagements or 
promises any one made for himself, he is under 
the obligation of them, but cannot by any com- 
pact whatsoever bind his children or posterity. 
For his son, when a man, being altogether as free 
as the father, any act of the father can no more 
give away the liberty of the son than it can of 
anybody else. He may, indeed, annex such con- 
ditions to the land he enjoyed, as a subject of 
any commonwealth, as may oblige his son to be 
of that community, if he will enjoy those pos- 
sessions which were his father's, because that es- 
tate being his father's property, he may dispose 
or settle it as he pleases. 

117. And this has generally given the occa- 
sion to the mistake in this matter; because com- 
monwealths not permitting any part of their 
dominions to be dismembered, nor to be enjoyed 
by any but those of their community, the son 
cannot ordinarily enjoy the possessions of his 
father but under the same terms his father did, 
by becoming a member of the society, whereby 
he puts himself presently under the government 
he finds there established, as much as any other 
subject of that commonweal. And thus the con- 
sent of free men, born under government, which 
only makes them members of it, being given 
separately in their turns, as each conies to be of 
age, and not in a multitude together, people take 
no notice of it, and thinking it not done at all, or 
not necessary, conclude they are naturally sub- 
jects as they are men. 

1 1 8. But it is plain governments themselves 
understand it otherwise; they claim no power 
over the son because of that they had over the 
father; nor look on children as being their sub- 
jects, by their fathers being so. If a subject of 
England have a child by an Englishwoman in 
France, whose subject is he? Not the King of 
England's; for be must have leave to be admit- 
ted to tfaeprivilegesofit Hoar t&eKIng of France's, 



for how then has his father a liberty to bring him 
away, and breed him as he pleases; and who- 
ever was judged as a traitor or deserter, if he 
left, or warred against a country, for being bare- 
ly born in it of parents that were aliens there? 
It is plain, then, by the practice of governments 
themselves, as well as by the law of right reason, 
that a child is born a subject of no country nor 
government. He is under his father's tuition and 
authority till he come to age of discretion, and 
then he is a free man, at liberty what govern- 
ment he will put himself under, what body poli- 
tic he will unite himself to. For if an English- 
man's son born in France be at liberty, and may 
do so, it is evident there is no tie upon him by 
his father being a subject of that kingdom, nor 
is he bound up by any compact of his ancestors; 
and why then hath not his son, by the same rea- 
son, the same liberty, though he be born any- 
where else? Since the power that a father hath 
naturally over his children is the same wherever 
they be born, and the ties of natural obligations 
are not bounded by the positive limits of king- 
doms and commonwealths. 

119. Every man being, as has been showed, 
naturally free, and nothing being able to put 
him into subjection to any earthly power, but 
only his own consent, it is to be considered what 
shall be understood to be a sufficient declaration 
of a man's consent to make him subject to the 
laws of any government. There is a common dis- 
tinction of an express and a tacit consent, which 
will concern our present case. Nobody doubts 
but an express consent of any man, entering in- 
to any society, makes him a perfect member of 
that society, a subject of that government. The 
difficulty is, what ought to be looked upon as a 
tacit consent, and how far it binds He., how far 
any one shall be looked on to have consented, 
and thereby submitted to any government, where 
he has made no expressions of it at all. And to 
this I say, that every man that hath any posses- 
sion or enjoyment of any part of the dominions 
of any government doth hereby give his tacit 
consent, and is as far forth obliged to obedience 
to the laws of that government, during such en- 
joyment, as any one under it, whether this his 
possession be of land to him and his heirs for 
ever, or a lodging only for a week; or whether it 
be barely travelling freely on the highway; and, 
in effect, it reaches as far as the very being of 
any one within the territories of that govern- 
ment. 

120. To understand this the better, it is fit to 
consider that every man when he at first incor- 
porates himself into any commonwealth, he, by 



CONCERNING CIVIL GOVERNMENT 



his uniting himself thereunto, annexes also, and 
submits to the community those possessions which 
he has, or shall acquire, that do not already be- 
long to any other government. For it would be 
a direct contradiction for any one to enter into 
society with others for the securing and regu- 
lating of property, and yet to suppose his land, 
whose property is to be regulated by the laws of 
the society, should be exempt from the jurisdic- 
tion of that government to which he himself, 
and the property of the land, is a subject. By the 
same act, therefore, whereby any one unites his 
person, which was before free, to any common- 
wealth, by the same he unites his possessions, 
which were before free, to it also; and they be- 
come, both of them, person and possession, sub- 
ject to the government and dominion of that 
commonwealth as long as it hath a being. Who- 
ever therefore, from thenceforth, by inheritance, 
purchases permission, or otherwise enjoys any 
part of the land so annexed to, and under the 
government of that commonweal, must take it 
with the condition it is under that is, of sub- 
mitting to the government of the commonwealth, 
under whose jurisdiction it is, as far forth as any 
subject of it. 

121. But since the government has a direct 
jurisdiction only over the land and reaches the 
possessor of it (before he has actually incorpor- 
ated himself in the society) only as he dwells up- 
on and enjoys that, the obligation any one is 
under by virtue of such enjoyment to submit to 
the government begins and ends with the enjoy- 
ment; so that whenever the owner, who has giv- 
en nothing but such a tacit consent to the gov- 
ernment will, by donation, sale or otherwise, 
quit the said possession, he is at liberty to go and 
incorporate himself into any other common- 
wealth, or agree with others to begin a new one 
in vacuis locis> in any part of the world they can 
find free and unpossessed; whereas he that has 
once, by actual agreement and any express dec- 
laration, given his consent to be of any common- 
weal, is perpetually and indispensably obliged 
to be, and remain unalterably a subject to it, 
and can never be again in the liberty of the 
state of Nature, unless by any calamity the gov- 
ernment he was under comes to be dissolved. 

122. But submitting to the laws of any coun- 
try, living quietly and enjoying privileges and 
protection under them, makes not a man a mem- 
ber of that society; it is only a local protection 
and homage due to and from all those who, not 
being in a state of war, come within the territor- 
ies belonging to any government, to all parts 
whereof the force of its law extends. But this no 



53 

more makes a man a member of that society, a 
perpetual subject of that commonwealth, than 
it would make a man a subject to another in 
whose family he found it convenient to abide for 
some time, though, whilst he continued in it, he 
were obliged to comply with the laws and submit 
to the government he found there. And thus we 
see that foreigners, by living all their lives under 
another government, and enjoying the privileges 
and protection of it, though they are bound, even 
in conscience, to submit to its administration as 
far forth as any denizen, yet do not thereby come 
to be subjects or members of that commonwealth. 
Nothing can make any man so but his actually 
entering into it by positive engagement and ex- 
press promise and compact. This is that which, 
I think, concerning the beginning of political 
societies, and that consent which makes any one 
a member of any commonwealth. 

Chap. IX. Of the Ends of Political 
Society and Government 

123. IF man in the state of Nature be so free as 
has been said, if he be absolute lord of his own 
person and possessions, equal to the greatest and 
subject to nobody, why will he part with his 
freedom, this empire, and subject himself to the 
dominion and control of any other power? To 
which it is obvious to answer, that though in the 
state of Nature he hath such a right, yet the en- 
joyment of it is very uncertain and constantly 
exposed to the invasion of others; for all being 
kings as much as he, ever man his equal, and 
the greater part no strict observers of equity and 
justice, the enjoyment of the property he has in 
this state is very unsafe, very insecure. This makes 
him willing to quit this condition which, how- 
ever free, is full of fears and continual dangers; 
and it is not without reason that he seeks out 
and is willing to join in society with others who 
are already united, or have a mind to unite for 
the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties 
and estates^ which I call by the general name 
property. 

124. The great and chief end, therefore, of 
men uniting into commonwealths, and putting 
themselves under government, is the preserva- 
tion of their property; to which in the state of 
Nature there are many things wanting. 

Firstly, there wants an established, settled,' 
known law, received and allowed by common 
consent to be the standard of right and wrong s 
and the common measure to decide all contro- 
versies between them. For though the law of 
Nature be plain and intelligible to all rational 
creatures, yet men, being biased by their inter- 



54 



JOHN LOCKE 



est, as well as ignorant for want of study of it, 
are not apt to allow of it as a law binding to 
them in the application of it to their particular 
cases. 

125. Secondly, in the state of Nature there 
wants a known and indifferent judge, with auth- 
ority to determine all differences according to 
the established law. For every one in that state 
being both judge and executioner of the law 
of Nature, men being partial to themselves, pas- 
sion and revenge is very apt to carry them too 
far, and with too much heat in their own cases, 
as well as negligence and unconcernedness, make 
them too remiss in other men's. 

126. Thirdly, in the state of Nature there often 
wants power to back and support the sentence 
when right, and to give it due execution. They 
who by any injustice offended will seldom fail 
where they are able by force to make good their 
injustice. Such resistance many times makes the 
punishment dangerous, and frequently destruc- 
tive to those who attempt it. 

127. Thus mankind, notwithstanding all the 
privileges of the state of Nature, being but in an 
ill condition while they remain in it are quickly 
driven into society. Hence it comes to pass, that 
we seldom find any number of men live any 
time together in this state. The inconveniencies 
that they are therein exposed to by the irregular 
and uncertain exercise of the power every man 
has of punishing the transgressions of others, 
make them take sanctuary under the established 
laws of government, and therein seek the pre- 
servation of their property. It is this makes them 
so willingly give up every one his single power 
of punishing to be exercised by such alone as 
shall be appointed to it amongst them, and by 
such rules as the community, or those author- 
ised by them to that purpose, shall agree on. 
And in this we have the original right and rise of 
both the legislative and executive power as well 
as of the governments and societies themselves. 

ia8. For in the state of Nature to omit the lib- 
erty he has of innocent delights, a man has two 
powers, The first is to do whatsoever he thinks 
fit for the preservation of himself and Bothers 
within the permission of the law of Nature; by 
which law, common to them all, he and all the 
rest of mankind are one community, make up 
one society distinct from all other creatures, and 
were it not for the corruption and viciousness of 
degenerate men, there would be no need of any 
other, no necessity that jaen should separate 
from thisgreataxKl nattural oomaiapity, and as- 
sockieii&ol*^^^ 
a man 



punish the crimes committed against that law. 
Both these he gives up when he joins in a pri- 
vate, if I may so call it, or particular political 
society, and incorporates into any common- 
wealth separate from the rest of mankind. 

129. The first power viz., of doing whatso- 
ever he thought fit for the preservation of him- 
self and the rest of mankind, he gives up to be 
regulated by laws made by the society, so far 
forth as the preservation of himself and the rest 
of that society shall require; which laws of the 
society in many things confine the liberty he had 
by the law of Nature. 

130. Secondly, the power of punishing he 
wholly gives up, and engages his natural force, 
which he might before employ in the execution 
of the law of Nature, by his own single authori- 
ty, as he thought fit, to assist the executive power 
of the society as the law thereof shall require. For 
being now in a new state, wherein he is to enjoy 
many conveniencies from the labour, assistance, 
and society of others in the same community, as 
well as protection from its whole strength, he is 
to part also with as much of his natural liberty, 
in providing for himself, as the good, prosperity, 
and safety of the society shall require, which is 
not only necessary but just, since the other mem- 
bers of the society do the like. 

131. But though men when they enter into 
society give up the equality, liberty, and execu- 
tive power they had in the state of Nature into 
the hands of the society, to be so far disposed of 
by the legislative as the good of the society shall 
require, yet it being only with an intention in ' 
every one the better to preserve himself, his lib- 
erty and property (for no rational creature can 
be supposed to change his condition with an in- 
tion to be worse), the power of the society or 
legislative constituted by them can never be sup- 
posed to extend farther than the common good, 
but is obliged to secure every one's property by 
providing against those three defects above men- 
tioned that made the state of Nature so unsafe 
and uneasy. And so, whoever has the legislative 
or supreme power of any commonwealth, is 
bound to govern by established standing laws, 
promulgated and known to the people, and not 
by extemporary decrees, by indifferent and up- 
right judges, who are to decide controversies by 
those laws; and to employ the force of the com- 
munity at home only in the execution of such 
laws, or abroad to prevent or redress foreign in- 
juries and secure the community from inroads 
and invasion. And all this to be directed to no 
other end but the peace, safety, and publk good 



CONCERNING CIVIL GOVERNMENT 



55 



Chapter X. Of the Form's of a Commonwealth 

132. THE majority having, as has been showed, 
upon men's first uniting into society, the whole 
power of the community naturally in them, may 
employ all that power in making laws for the 
community from time to tune, and executing 
those laws by officers of their own appointing, 
and then the form of the government is a per- 
fect democracy; or else may put the power of 
making laws into the hands of a few select men, 
and their heirs or successors, and then it is an 
oligarchy; or else into the hands of one man, 
and then it is a monarchy; if to him and his 
heirs, it is a hereditary monarchy; if to him 
only for life, but upon his death the power only 
of nominating a successor, to return to them, an 
elective monarchy. And so accordingly of these 
make compounded and mixed forms of govern- 
ment, as they think good. And if the legislative 
power be at first given by the majority to one or 
more persons only for their lives, or any limited 
time, and then the supreme power to revert to 
them again, when it is so reverted the commu- 
nity may dispose of it again anew into what 
hands they please, and so constitute a new form 
of government; for the form of government de- 
pending upon the placing the supreme power, 
which is the legislative, it being impossible to 
conceive that an inferior power should prescribe 
to a superior, or any but the supreme make laws, 
according as the power of malting laws is plac- 
ed, such is the form of the commonwealth. 

133. By "commonwealth" I must be under- 
stood all along to mean not a democracy, or any 
form of government, but any independent com- 
munity which the Latins signified by the word 
ctvitas, to which the word which best answers in 
our language is "commonwealth," and most 
properly expresses such a society of men which 
"community" does not (for there may be sub- 
ordinate communities in a government), and 
"city" much less. And therefore, to avoid am- 
biguity, I crave leave to use the word "com- 
monwealth" in that sense, in which sense I find 
the word used by King James himself, which I 
think to be its genuine signification, which, if 
anybody dislike, I consent with him to change 
it for a better. 

Chap. XL Of the Extent of the 
Legislative Power 

134. THE great end of men's entering into socie- 
ty being the enjoyment of their properties in 
peace and safety, and the great instrument and 
means of that being the laws established in that 



society, the first and fundamental positive law 
of all commonwealths is the establishing of the 
legislative power, as the first and fundamental 
natural law which is to govern even the legisla- 
tive. Itself is the preservation of the society and 
(as far as will consist with the public good) of 
every person in it. This legislative is not only 
the supreme power of the commonwealth, but 
sacred and unalterable in the hands where the 
community have once placed it. Nor can any 
edict of anybody else, in what form soever con- 
ceived, or by what power soever backed, have 
the force and obligation of a law which has not 
its sanction from that legislative which the pub- 
lic has chosen and appointed; for without this 
the law could not have that which is absolutely 
necessary to its being a law, the consent of the 
society, over whom nobody can have a power to 
make laws 1 but by their own consent and by 
authority received from them; and therefore aU 
the obedience, which by the most solemn ties 
any one can be obliged to pay, utlimately term- 
inates in this supreme power, and is directed by 
those laws which it enacts. Nor can any oaths to 
any foreign power whatsoever, or any domestic 
subordinate power, discharge ' any member of 
the society from his obedience to the legislative, 
acting pursuant to their trust, nor oblige him to 
any obedience contrary to the laws so enacted or 
farther than they do allow, it being ridiculous 
to imagine one can be tied ultimately to obey 
any power in the society which is not the su- 
preme. 

135. Though the legislative, whether placed 
in one or more, whether it be always in being or 
only by intervals, though it be the supreme power 
hi every commonwealth, yet, first, it is not, nor 
can possibly be, absolutely arbitrary over the 

l "The lawful power of making laws to com- 
mand whole politic societies of men, belonging so 
properly unto the same entire societies, that for 
any prince or potentate, of what kind soever upon 
earth, to exercise the same of himself, and not by 
express commission immediately and personally 
received from God, or else by authority derived 
at the first from their consent, upon whose persons 
they impose laws, it is no better than mere ty- 
ranny. Laws they are not, therefore, which public 
approbation hath not made so." Hooker, Ibid. 10. 

"Of this point, therefore, we are to note that 
such men naturally have no roll and perfect 
power to command whole politic multitudes of 
men, therefore utterly without our consent we 
could in such sort be at no man's commandment 
living. And to be commanded, we do consent 
when that society, whereof we be a part, hath at 
any time before consented, without revoking the 
same after by the like universal agreement. 

"Laws therefore human, of what kind soever, 
are available by consent/* Hooker, Ibid. 



JOHN LOCKE 



lives and fortunes of the people. For it being but 
the joint power of every member of the society 
given up to that person or assembly which is 
legislator, it can be no more than those persons 
had hi a state of Nature before they entered in- 
to society, and gave it up to the community. For 
nobody can transfer to another more power than 
he has in himself, and nobody has an absolute 
arbitrary power over himself, or over any other, 
to destroy his own life, or take away the life or 
property of another. A man, as has been proved, 
cannot subject himself to the arbitrary power of 
another; and having, in the state of Nature, no 
arbitrary power over the life, liberty, or posses- 
sion of another, but only so much as the law of 
Nature^gave him for the preservation of himself 
and the rest of mankind, this is all he doth, or 
can give up to the commonwealth, and by it to 
the legislative power, so that the legislative can 
have no more than this. Their power in the ut- 
most bounds of it is limited to the public good 
of the society. 1 It is a power that hath no other 
end but preservation, and therefore can never 
have a right to destroy, enslave, or designedly 
to impoverish the subjects; the obligations of the 
law of Nature cease not in society, but only in 
many cases are drawn closer, and have, by hu- 
man laws, known penalties annexed to them to 
enforce then* observation. Thus the law of Na- 
ture stands as an eternal rule to all men, legisla- 
tors as well as others. The rules that they make 
for other men's actions must, as well as their 
own and other men's actions, be conformable to 
the law of Nature i.e., to the will of God, of 
which that is a declaration, and the fundamen- 
tal law of Nature being the preservation of man- 
kind, no human sanction can be good or valid 
against it. 

1 *'Two foundations there are which bear up 
public societies; the one a natural inclination 
whereby all men desire sociable life and fellow- 
ship; the other an order, expressly or secretly 
agreed upon, touching the manner of their union 
in living together. The latter is that which we call 
the law of a commonweal, the very soul of a politic 
body, the parts whereof are by law animated, held 
together, and set on work in such actions as the 
common good requireth. Laws politic, ordained 
for external order and regimen amongst men, are 
never framed as they should be, unless presuming 
the will of man to be inwardly obstinate, rebel- 
lious, and averse from all obedience to the sacred 
laws of his nature; in a word, unless presuming 
map to be in regard of his depraved mind little 
better than a wild beast, they do accordingly pro- 
vide notwithstanding, so to frame his outward ac- 
tions, that they be no hmdrance unto the common 
good, for which societies are instituted. Unless they 
do thia they arc not perfect," Hooker, Ecd~ Pd. i. 
10. 



136. Secondly, the legislative or supreme auth- 
ority cannot assume to itself a power to rule by 
extemporary arbitrary decrees, but is bound to 
dispense justice and decide the rights of the sub- 
ject by promulgated standing laws, 2 and known 
authorised judges. For the law of Nature being 
unwritten, and so nowhere to be found but in 
the minds of men, they who, through passion or 
interest, shall miscite or misapply it, cannot so 
easily be convinced of their mistake where there 
is no established judge; and so it serves not as it 
aught, to determine the rights and fence the 
properties of those that live under it, especially 
where every one is judge 3 interpreter, and exe- 
cutioner of it too, and that in his own case; and 
he that has right on his side, having ordinarily 
but his own single strength, hath not force enough 
to defend himself from injuries or punish delin- 
quents. To avoid these inconveniencies which 
disorder men's properties in the state of Nature, 
men unite into societies that they may have the 
united strength of the whole society to secure 
and defend their properties, and may have stand- 
ing rules to bound it by which every one may 
know what is his. To this end it is that men give 
up all then* natural power to the society they 
enter into, and the community put the legislative 
power into such hands as they think fit, with this 
trust, that they shall be governed by declared 
laws, or else their peace, quiet, and property will 
still be at the same uncertainty as it was in the 
state of Nature. 

137. Absolute arbitrary power, or governing 
without settled standing laws, can neither of them 
consist with the ends of society and government, 
which men would not quit the freedom of the 
state of Nature for, and tie themselves up under, 
were it not to preserve their lives, liberties, and 
fortunes, and by stated rules of right and prop- 
erty to secure their peace and quiet. It cannot 
be supposed that they should intend, had they a 
power so to do, to give any one or more an ab- 
solute arbitrary power over their persons and 
estates, and put a force into the magistrate's hand 
to execute his unlimited will arbitrarily upon 
them; this were to put themselves into a worse 
condition than the state of Nature, wherein they 

2 "Human laws are measures in respect of men 
whose actions they must direct, howbeit such meas- 
ures they are as have also their higher rules to be 
measured by, which rules are two the law of God 
and the law of Nature; so that laws human must be 
made according to the general laws of Nature, and 
without contradiction to any positive law of Scrip- 
ture, otherwise they are ill made." Hooker, EccL 
Pol. iii. 9. 

"To constrain men to anything inconvenient 
doth seem unreasonable." Ibid. L 10. 



CONCERNING CIVIL GOVERNMENT 



57 



had a liberty to defend their right against the 
injuries of others, and were upon equal terms of 
force to maintain it, whether invaded by a single 
man or many in combination. Whereas by sup- 
posing they have given up themselves to the ab- 
solute arbitrary power and will of a legislator, 
they have disarmed themselves, and armed him 
to make a prey of them when he pleases; he be- 
ing hi a much worse condition that is exposed to 
the arbitrary power of one man who has the 
command of a hundred thousand than he that is 
exposed to the arbitrary power of a hundred 
thousand single men, nobody being secure, that 
his will who has such a command is better than 
that of other men, though his force be a hundred 
thousand times stronger. And, therefore, what- 
ever form the commonwealth is under, the rul- 
ing power ought to govern by declared and re- 
ceived laws, and not by extemporary dictates 
and undetermined resolutions, for then mankind 
will be in a far worse condition than in the state 
of Nature if they shall have armed one or a few 
men with the joint power of a multitude, to force 
them to obey at pleasure the exorbitant and un- 
limited decrees of their sudden thoughts, or un- 
restrained, and till that moment, unknown wills, 
without having any measures set down which 
may guide and justify their actions. For all the 
power the government has, being only for the 
good of the society, as it ought not to be arbi- 
trary and at pleasure, so it ought to be exercised 
by established and promulgated laws, that both 
the people may know their duty, and be safe 
and secure within the limits of the law, and the 
rulers, too, kept within their due bounds, and 
not be tempted by the power they have in their 
hands to employ it to purposes, and by such 
measures as they would not have known, and 
own not willingly. 

138. Thirdly, the supreme power cannot take 
from any man any part of his property without 
his own consent. For the preservation of proper- 
ty being the end of government, and that for 
which men enter into society, it necessarily sup- 
poses and requires that the people should have 
property, without which they must be supposed 
to lose that by entering into society which was 
the end for which they entered into it; too gross 
an absurdity for any man to own. Men, there- 
fore, in society having property, they have such 
a right to the goods, which by the law of the 
community are theirs, that nobody hath a right 
to take them, or any part of them, from them 
without their own consent; without this they have 
no property at all. For I have truly no property 
in that which another can by right take from me 



when he pleases against my consent Hence it is 
a mistake to think that the supreme or legisla- 
tive power of any commonwealth can do what 
it will, and dispose of the estates of the subject 
arbitrarily, or take any part of them at pleasure. 
This is not much to be feared in governments 
where the legislative consists wholly or in part 
in assemblies which are variable, whose mem- 
bers upon the dissolution of the assembly are sub- 
jects under the common laws of their country, 
equally with the rest. But in governments where 
the legislative is in one lasting assembly, always 
in being, or in one man as in absolute monarch- 
ies, there is danger still, that they will think them - 
selves to have a distinct interest from the rest of 
the community, and so will be apt to increase 
their own riches and power by taking what they 
think fit from the people. For a man's property 
is not at all secure, though there be good and 
equitable laws to set the bounds of it between 
him and his fellow-subjects, if he who commands 
those subjects have power to take from any pri- 
vate man what part he pleases of his property, 
and use and dispose of it as he thinks good. 

139. But government, into whosesoever hands 
it is put, being as I have before shown, entrusted 
with this condition, and for this end, that men 
might have and secure their properties, the prince 
or senate, however it may have power to make 
laws for the regulating of property between the 
subjects one amongst another, yet can never have 
a power to take to themselves the whole, or any 
part of the subjects' property, without their own 
consent; for this would be in effect to leave them 
no property at all. And to let us see that even 
absolute power, where it is necessary, is not ar- 
bitrary by being absolute, but is still limited by 
that reason and confined to those ends which 
required it in some cases to be absolute, we need 
look no farther than the common practice of 
martial discipline. For the preservation of the 
army, and in it of the whole commonwealth, re- 
quires an absolute obedience to the command of 
every superior officer, and it is justly death to 
disobey or dispute the most dangerous or un- 
reasonable of them; but yet we see that neither 
the sergeant that could command a soldier to 
march up to the mouth of a cannon, or stand in 
a breach where he is almost sure to perish, can 
command that soldier to give him one penny of 
his money; nor the general that can condemn 
him to death for deserting his post, or not obey- 
ing the most desperate orders, cannot yet with 
all his absolute power of life and death dispose 
of one farthing of that soldier's estate, or seize 
one jot of his goods; whom yet he can command 



JOHN LOCKE 



anything, and hang for the least disobedience. 
Because such a blind obedience is necessary 
to that end for which the commander has his 
power viz., the preservation of the rest, but 
the disposing of his goods has nothing to do 
with it. 

140. It is true governments cannot be sup- 
ported without great charge, and it is fit every 
one who enjoys his share of the protection should 
pay out of his estate his proportion for the main- 
tenance of it. But still it must be with his own 
consent i.e., the consent of the majority, giv- 
ing it either by themselves or their representa- 
tives chosen by them; for if any one shall claim 
a power to lay and levy taxes on the people by 
his own authority, and without such consent of 
the people, he thereby invades the fundamental 
law of property, and subverts the end of govern- 
ment. For what property have I in that which 
another may by right take when he pleases to 
himself? 

141. Fourthly. The legislative cannot trans- 
fer the power of making laws to any other hands, 
for it being but a delegated power from the peo- 
ple, they who have it cannot pass it over to others. 
The people alone can appoint the form of the 
commonwealth, which is by constituting the legis- 
lative, and appointing in whose hands that shall 
be. And when the people have said, "We will 
submit, and be governed by laws made by such 
men, and in such forms," nobody else -can say 
other men shall make laws for them; nor can 
they be bound by any laws but such as are en- 
acted by those whom they have chosen and auth- 
orised to make laws for them. 

142. These are the bounds which the trust 
that is put in them by the society and the law of 
God and Nature have set to the legislative power 
of every commonwealth, in all forms of govern- 
ment First: They are to govern by promulgated 
established laws, not to be varied in particular 

I cases, but to have one rule for rich and poor, for 
the favourite at Court, and the countryman at 
plough. Secondly: These laws also ought to be 
designed for no other end ultimately but the 
good of the people. Thirdly: They must not raise 
taxes on the property of the people without the 
consent oCthe people given by themselves or their 
deputies* And this properly concerns only such 
governments where the legislative is always in 
being, or at least where the people have not re- 
served any part of the legislative to deputies, to be 
from time to time chosen by themselves^ Fourth- 
ly: Legislature aeither Kanast nor can fra^sfey the 
power of ipslpg l^w? jp ^yfeooll !efee* <or Jplace 
it 



Chap. XII. The Legislative, Executive, and 
Federative Power of the Commonwealth 

143. THE legislative power is that which has a 
right to direct how the force of the common- 
wealth shall be employed for preserving the com- 
munity and the members of it. Because those 
laws which are constantly to be executed, and 
whose force is always to continue, may be made 
in a little time, therefore there is no need that 
the legislative should be always in being, not hav- 
ing always business to do. And because it may 
be too great temptation to human frailty, apt to 
grasp at power, for the same persons who have 
the power of making laws to have also in their 
hands the power to execute them, whereby they 
may exempt themselves from obedience to the 
laws they make, and suit the law, both in its 
making and execution, to their own private ad- 
vantage, and thereby come to have a distinct 
interest from the rest of the community, contrary 
to the end of society and government. Therefore 
in well-ordered commonwealths, where the good 
of the whole is so considered as it ought, the legis- 
lative power isputintothehandsofdiverspersons 
who, duly assembled, have by themselves, or 
jointly with others, a power to make laws, which 
when they have done, being separated again, 
they are themselves subject to the laws they have 
made; which is a new and near tie upon them 
to take care that they make them for the public 
good. 

144. But because the laws that are at once, 
and in a short time made, have a constant and 
lasting force, and need a perpetual execution, or 
an attendance thereunto, therefore it is neces- 
sary there should be a power always in being 
which should see to the execution of the laws 
that are made, and remain in force. And thus 
the legislative and executive power come often 
to be separated. 

145. There is another power in every common- 
wealth which one may call natural, because it 
is that which answers to the power every man 
naturally had before he entered into society. For 
though in a commonwealth the members of it 
are distinct persons, still, in reference to one an- 
other, and, as such, are governed by the laws of 
the society, yet, in reference to the rest of man- 
kind, they make one body, which is, as every 
member of it before was, still in the state of Na- 
ture with the rest of mankind, so that the con- 
troversies that happen between any man of the 
society with those that are out of it are managed 
by the public, and an injury done to a member 
of thspr t |)04y engages he whole in the repara- 



CONCERNING CIVIL GOVERNMENT 



tion of it. So that under this consideration the 
whole community is one body in the state of Na- 
ture in respect of all other states or persons out 
of its community. 

146. This, therefore, contains the power of 
war and peace, leagues and alliances, and all the 
transactions with all persons and communities 
without the commonwealth, and may be called 
federative if any one pleases. So the thing be 
understood, I am indifferent as to the name. 

147. These two powers, executive and federa- 
tive, though they be really distinct in themselves, 
yet one comprehending the execution of the mu- 
nicipal laws of the society within itself upon all 
that are parts of it, the other the management of 
the security and interest of the public without 
with all those that it may receive benefit or dam- 
age from, yet they are always almost united. 
And though this federative power in the well or 
ill management of it be of great moment to the 
commonwealth, yet it is much less capable to be 
directed by antecedent, standing, positive laws 
than the executive, and so must necessarily be 
left to the prudence and wisdom of those whose 
hands it is in, to be managed for the public good. 
For the laws that concern subjects one amongst 
another, being to direct their actions, may well 
enough precede them. But what is to be done in 
reference to foreigners depending much upon 
their actions, and the variation of designs and 
interests, must be left in great part to the pru- 
dence of those who have this power committed 
to them, to be managed by the best of their skill 
for the advantage of the commonwealth. 

148. Though, as I said, the executive and fed- 
erative power of every community be really dis- 
tinct in themselves, yet they are hardly to be 
separated and placed at the same time in the 
hands of distinct persons. For both of them re- 
quiring the force of the society for their exercise, " 
it is almost impracticable to place the force of 
the commonwealth in distinct and not subordi- 
nate hands, or that the executive and federative 
power should be placed in persons that might 
act separately, whereby the force of the public 
would be under different commands, which 
would be apt some time or other to cause dis- 
order and ruin. 

Chap. XIII. Of the Subordination of the 
Powers of the Commonwealth 

149. THOUGH in a constituted commonwealth 
standing upon its own basis and acting accord- 
ing to its own nature that is, acting for the pre- 
servation of the community, there can be but 
one supreme power* which is the legislative, to 



59 



which all the rest are and must be subordinate, 
yet the legislative being only a fiduciary power 
to act for certain ends, there remains still in the 
people a supreme power to remove or alter the 
legislative, when they find the legislative act con- 
trary to the trust reposed in them. For all power 
given with trust for the attaining an end being 
limited by that end, whenever that end is mani- 
festly neglected or opposed, the trust must nec- 
essarily be forefeited, and the power devolve in- 
to the hands of those that gave it, who may place it 
anew where they shall think best for their safety 
and security. And thus the community perpet- 
ually retains a supreme power of saving them- 
selves from the attempts and designs of anybody, 
even of their legislators, whenever they shall be 
so foolish or so wicked as to lay and carry on de- 
signs against the liberties and properties of the 
subject. For no man or society of men having a 
power to deliver up their preservation, or con- 
sequently the means of it, to the absolute will 
and arbitrary dominion of another, whenever 
any one shall go about to bring them into such a 
slavish condition, they will always have a right 
to preserve what they have not a power to part 
with, and to rid themselves of those who invade 
this fundamental, sacred, and unalterable law 
of self-preservation for which they entered into 
society. And thus the community may be said 
in this respect to be always the supreme power, 
but not as considered under any form of govern- 
ment, because this power of the people can never 
take place till the government be dissolved. 

150. In all cases whilst the government sub- 
sists, the legislative is the supreme power. For 
what can give laws to another must needs be 
superior to him, and since the legislative is no 
otherwise legislative of the society but by the 
right it has to make laws for all the parts, and 
every member of the society prescribing rules to 
their actions, and givingpower of execution where 
they are transgressed, the legislative must needs 
be the supreme, and all other powers in any 
members or parts of the society derived from 
and subordinate to it. 

151. In some commonwealths where the leg- 
islative is not always in being, and the executive 
is vested in a single person who has also a share in 
the legislative, there that single person, in a very 
tolerable sense, may also be called supreme; not 
that he has in himself all the supreme power, 
which is that of law-making, but because he has 
in him the supreme execution from whom all 
inferior magistrates derive all their several sub- 
ordinate powers, or, at least, the greatest part 
of them; having also no legislative superior to 



6o 



JOHN LOCKE 



him, there being no law to be made without his 
consent, which cannot be expected should ever 
subject him to the other part of the legislative, 
he is properly enough in this sense supreme. But 
yet it is to be observed that though oaths of al- 
legiance and fealty are taken to him, it is not to 
him as supreme legislator, but as supreme exec- 
utor of the law made by a joint power of him with 
others, allegiance being nothing but an obed- 
ience according to law, which, when he violates, 
he has no right to obedience, nor can claim it 
otherwise than as the public person vested with 
the power of the law, and so is to be considered 
as the image, phantom, or representative of the 
commonwealth, acted by the will of the society 
declared hi its laws, and thus he has no will, no 
power, but that of the law. But when he quits 
this representation, this public will, and acts by 
his own private will, he degrades himself, and is 
but a single private person without power and 
without will; the members owing no obedience 
but to the public will of the society. 

152. The executive power placed anywhere 
but in a person that has also a share in the legis- 
lative is visibly subordinate and accountable to 
it, and may be at pleasure changed and dis- 
placed; so that it is not the supreme executive 
power that is exempt from subordination, but 
the supreme executive power vested in one, who 
having a share in the legislative, has no distinct 
superior legislative to be subordinate and ac- 
countable to, farther than he himself shall join 
and consent, so that he is no more subordinate 
than he himself shall think fit, which one may 
certainly conclude will be but very little. Of 
other ministerial and subordinate powers in a 
commonwealth we need not speak, they being 
so multiplied with infinite variety hi the different 
customs and constitutions of distinct common- 
wealths, that it is impossible to give a particular 
account of them all. Only thus much which is 
necessary to our present purpose we may take 
notice of concerning them, that they have no 
manner of authority, any of them, beyond what 
is by positive grant and commission delegated to 
them, and are all of them accountable to some 
other power in the commonwealth. 

153. It is not necessary no, nor so much as 
convenient that the legislative should be al- 
ways in being; but absolutely necessary that the 
executive power should, because there is not al- 
ways need of new laws to be made, but always 
need of execution of the laws that are made. 
When the legislative hath put the execution of 
the laws they saake into other haisds, they have 
a power still to restuae it out of t&ose hands when 



they find cause, and to punish for any mal-ad- 
ministration against the laws. The same holds 
also in regard of the federative power, that and 
the executive being both ministerial and sub- 
ordinate to the legislative, which, as has been 
shown, in a constituted commonwealth is the 
supreme, the legislative also in this case being 
supposed to consist of several persons; for if it be 
a single person it cannot but be always in being, 
and so will, as supreme, naturally have the su- 
preme executive power, together with the legis- 
lative, may assemble and exercise their legisla- 
tive at the times that either their original consti- 
tution or their own adjournment appoints, or 
when they please, if neither of these hath ap- 
pointed any time, or there be no other way pre- 
scribed to convoke them. For the supreme power 
being placed in them by the people, it is always 
in them, and they may exercise it when they 
please, unless by their original constitution they 
are limited to certain seasons, or by an act of 
then: supreme power they have adjourned to a 
certain time, and when that time comes they 
have a right to assemble and act again. 

154. If the legislative, or any part of it, be of 
representatives, chosen for that time by the peo- 
ple, which afterwards return into the ordinary 
state of subjects, and have no share in the legis- 
lative but upon a new choice, this power of choos- 
ing must also be exercised by the people, either 
at certain appointed seasons, or else when they 
are summoned to it; and, in this latter case, the 
power of convoking the legislative is ordinarily 
placed in the executive, and has one of these two 
limitations in respect of time: that either the 
original constitution requires their assembling 
and acting at certain intervals; and then the ex- 
ecutive power does nothing but ministerially is- 
sue directions for then- electing and assembling 
according to due forms; or else it is left to his 
prudence to call them by new elections when 
the occasions or exigencies of the public require 
the amendment of old or making of new laws, or 
the redress or prevention of any inconveniencies 
that lie on or threaten the people. 

155. It may be demanded here, what if the 
executive power, being possessed of the force of 
the commonwealth, shall make use of that force 
to hinder the meeting and acting of the legisla- 
tive, when the original constitution or the pub- 
lic exigencies require it? I say, using force upon 
the people, without authority, and contrary to 
the trust put hi him that does so, is a state of 
war with the people, who have a right to rein- 
state their legislativeintheexerciseoftheirpower. 
For having erected a legislative with an intent 



CONCERNING CIVIL GOVERNMENT 



61 



they should exercise the power of making laws, 
either at certain set times, or when there is need 
of it, when they are hindered by any force from 
what is so necessary to the society, and wherein 
the safety and preservation of the people con- 
sists, the people have a right to remove it by 
force. In all states and conditions the true rem- 
edy offeree without authority is to oppose force 
to it. The use of force without authority always 
puts him that uses it into a state of war as the 
aggressor, and renders him liable to be treated 
accordingly. 

156. The power of assembling and dismissing 
the legislative, placed in the executive, gives not 
the executive a superiority over it, but is a fidu- 
ciary trust placed in him for the safety of the 
people in a case where the uncertainty and var- 
iableness of human affairs could not bear a steady 
fixed rule. For it not being possible that the first 
framers of the government should by any fore- 
sight be so much masters of future events as to 
be able to prefix so just periods of return and 
duration to the assemblies of the legislative, in 
all times to come, that might exactly answer all 
the exigencies of the commonwealth, the best 
remedy could be found for this defect was to 
trust this to the prudence of one who was always 
to be present, and whose business it was to watch 
over the public good. Constant, frequent meet- 
ings of the legislative, and long continuations of 
their assemblies, without necessary occasion, 
could not but be burdensome to the people, and 
must necessarily in time produce more danger- 
ous inconveniencies, and yet the quick turn of 
affairs might be sometimes such as to need their 
present help; any delay of their convening might 
endanger the public; and sometimes, too, their 
business might be so great that the limited time 
of their sitting might be too short for their work, 
and rob the public of that benefit which could be 
had only from their mature deliberation. What, 
then, could be done in this case to prevent the 
community from being exposed some time or 
other to imminent hazard on one side or the 
other, by fixed intervals and periods set to the 
meeting and acting of the legislative, but to en- 
trust it to the prudence of some who, being pres- 
ent and acquainted with the state of public af- 
fairs, might make use of this prerogative for the 
public good? And where else could this be so 
well placed as in his hands who was entrusted 
with the execution of the laws for the same end? 
Thus, supposing the regulation of times for the 
assembling and sitting of the legislative not set- 
tled by the original constitution, it naturally fell 
into the hands of the executive; not as an arbi- 



trary power depending on his good pleasure, but 
with this trust always to have it exercised only 
for the public weal, as the occurrences of times 
and change of affairs might require. Whether 
settled periods of their convening, or a liberty 
left to the prince for convoking the legislative, 
or perhaps a mixture of both, hath the least in- 
convenience attending it, it is not my business 
here to inquire, but only to show that, though 
the executive power may have the prerogative 
of convoking and dissolving such conventions 
of the legislative, yet it is not thereby superior 
to it. 

157. Things of this world are in so constant a 
flux that nothing remains long in the same state. 
Thus people, riches, trade, power, change their 
stations; flourishing mighty cities come to ruin, 
and prove in time neglected desolate corners, 
whilst other unfrequented places grow into pop- 
ulous countries filled with wealth and inhabit- 
ants. But things not always changing equally, 
and private interest often keeping up customs 
and privileges when the reasons of them are 
ceased, it often comes to pass that in governments 
where part of the legislative consists of represen- 
tatives chosen by the people, that in tract of 
time this representation becomes very unequal 
and disproportionate to the reasons it was at first 
established upon. To what gross absurdities the 
following of custom when reason has left it may 
lead, we may be satisfied when we see the bare 
name of a town, of which there remains not so 
much as the ruins, where scarce so much hous- 
ing as a sheepcote, or more inhabitants than a 
shepherd is to be found, send as many represen- 
tatives to the grand assembly of law-makers as 
a whole county numerous in people and power- 
ful in riches. This strangers stand amazed at, 
and every one must confess needs a remedy; 
though most tbirik it hard to find one, because 
the constitution of the legislative being the orig- 
inal and supreme act of the society, antecedent 
to all positive laws in it, and depending wholly 
on the people, no inferior power can alter it. 
And, therefore, the people when the legislative 
is once constituted, having in-such a government 
as we have been speaking of no power to act as 
long as the government stands, this inconven- 
ience is thought incapable of a remedy. 

158. Sdus populi supremo, lex is certainly so just 
and fundamental a rule, that he who sincerely 
follows it cannot dangerously err. If, therefore, 
the executive who has the power of convoking 
the legislative, observing rather the true propor- 
tion than fashion of representation, regulates not 
by old custom, but true reason, the number of 



62 

members in all places, that have a right to be 
distinctly represented, which no part of the peo- 
ple, however incorporated, can pretend to, but 
hi proportion to the assistance which it affords 
to the public, it cannot be judged to have set up 
a new legislative, but to have restored the old 
and true one, and to have rectified the disorders 
which succession of time had insensibly as well 
as inevitably introduced; for it being the inter- 
est as well as intention of the people to have a 
fair and equal representative, whoever brings it 
nearest to that is an undoubted friend to and es- 
tablisher of the government, and cannot miss the 
consent and approbation of the community; pre- 
rogative being nothing but a power in the hands 
of the prince to provide for the public good in 
such cases which, depending upon unforeseen 
and uncertain occurrences, certain and unalter- 
able laws could not safely direct. Whatsoever 
shall be done manifestly for the good of the peo- 
ple, and establishing the government upon its 
true foundations is, and always will be, just pre- 
rogative. The power of erecting new corpora- 
tions, and therewith new representatives, car- 
ries with it a supposition that in time the 
measures of representation might vary, and those 
have a just right to be represented which before 
had none; and by the same reason, those cease 
to have a right, and be too inconsiderable for 
such a privilege, which before had it. It is not a 
change from the present state which, perhaps, 
corruption or decay has introduced, that makes 
an inroad upon the government, but the ten- 
dency of it to injure or oppress the people, and 
to set up one part or party with a distinction 
from and an unequal subjection of the rest. What- 
soever cannot but be acknowledged to be of ad- 
vantage to the society and people in general, 
upon just and lasting measures, will always, when 
done, justify itself; and whenever the people shall 
choose their representatives upon just and un- 
deniably equal measures, suitable to the original 
frame of the government, it cannot be doubted 
to be the will and act of the society, whoever 
permitted or proposed to them so to do. 

Chap. XIV. Of Prerogative 

*5 WHERE the legislative and executive power 
are in distinct hands, as tbtey are in a ^ moder- 
ated monarchies and well-framed governments, 
there the good of the society requires that several 
things stolid be kft to the discretion of him that 
has the OEecuiive power. For the legislators not 
beiag able to foresee and provide by laws for all 

^ the execu- 



JOHN LOCKE 



tor 



has by the common law of Nature a right to make 
use of it for the good of the society, hi many cases 
where the municipal law has given no direction, 
till the legislative can conveniently be assembled 
to provide for it; nay, many things there are 
which the law can by no means provide for, and 
those must necessarily be left to the discretion of 
him that has the executive power in his hands, 
to be ordered by him as the public good and ad- 
vantage shall require; nay, it is fit that the laws 
themselves should in some cases give way to the 
executive power, or rather to this fundamental 
law of Nature and government viz., that as 
much as may be all the members of the society 
are to be preserved. For since many accidents 
may happen wherein a strict and rigid observa- 
tion of the laws may do harm, as not to pull down 
an innocent man's house to stop the fire when 
the next to it is burning; and a man may come 
sometimes within the reach of the law, which 
makes no distinction of persons, by an action 
that may deserve reward and pardon; it is fit 
the ruler should have a power in many cases to 
mitigate the severity of the law, and pardon some 
offenders, since the end of government being the 
preservation of all as much as may be, even the 
guilty are to be spared where it can prove no 
prejudice to the innocent. 

1 60. This power to act according to discretion 
for the public good, without the prescription of 
the law and sometimes even against it, is that 
which is called prerogative; for since hi some 
governments the law-making power is not al- 
ways in being and is usually too numerous, and 
so too slow for the dispatch requisite to execu- 
tion, and because, also, it is impossible to foresee 
and so by laws to provide for all accidents and 
necessities that may concern the public, or make 
such laws as will do no harm, if they are execut- 
ed with an inflexible rigour on all occasions and 
upon all persons that may come in their way, 
therefore there is a latitude left to the executive 
power to do many things of choice which the 
laws do not prescribe. 

1 6 1 . This power, whilst employed for the bene- 
fit of the community and suitably to the trust 
and ends of the government, is undoubted pre- 
rogative, and never is questioned. For the peo- 
ple are very seldom or never scrupulous or nice 
in the point or questioning of prerogative whilst 
it is in any tolerable degree employed for the use 
it was meant that is, the good of the people, 
and not manifestly against it But if there comes 
to be a question between the executive power 
an4 tbe people' about a thing claimed as a pre- 
rogative* tbdtc^deacy of the exercise of such pre- 



CONCERNING CIVIL GOVERNMENT 



rogative, to the good or hurt of the people, will 
easily decide that question. 

162. It is easy to conceive that in the infancy 
of governments, when commonwealths differed 
little from families in number of people, they dif- 
fered from them too but little in number of laws; 
and the governors being as the fathers of them, 
watching over them for their good, the govern- 
ment was almost all prerogative. A few estab- 
lished laws served the turn, and the discretion 
and care of the ruler supplied the rest. But when 
mistake or flattery prevailed with weak princes, 
to make use of this power for private ends of their 
own and not for the public good, the people were 
fain, by express laws, to get prerogative deter- 
mined in those points wherein they found disad- 
vantage from it, and declared limitations of pre- 
rogative in those cases which they and their an- 
cestors had left in the utmost latitude to the wis- 
dom of those princes who made no other but a 
right use of itthat is, for the good of their 
people. 

N/ 163. And therefore they have a very wrong 
* notion of government who say that the people 
have encroached upon the prerogative when 
they have got any part of it to be defined by posi- 
tive laws. For in so doing they have not pulled 
from the prince anything that of right belonged 
to him, but only declared that that power which 
they indefinitely left in his or his ancestors 3 
hands, to be exercised for their good, was not a 
thing they intended him, when he used it other- 
wise. For the end of government being the good 
of the community, whatsoever alterations are 
made in it tending to that end cannot be an en- 
croachment upon anybody; since nobody in gov- 
ernment can have a right tending to any other 
end; and those only are encroachments which 
prejudice or hinder the public good. Those who 
say otherwise speak as if the prince had a dis- 
tinct and separate interest from the good of the 
community, and was not made for it; the root 
and source from which spring almost all those 
evils and disorders which happen in kingly gov- 
ernments. And, indeed, if that be so, the people 
under his government are not a society of ration- 
al creatures, entered into a community for their 
mutual good, such as have set rulers over them- 
selves, to guard and promote that good; but are 
to be looked on as a herd of inferior creatures 
under the dominion of a master, who keeps tfeem. 
and works them for his own pleasure or profit. If 
men were so void of reason and brutish as to enter 
into society upon such terms, prerogative might 
indeed be, what some men would have it, an ar- 
bitrary power to do things hurtful to the people. 



164. But since a rational creature cannot be 
supposed, when free, to put himself into subjec- 
tion to another for his own harm (though where 
he finds a good and a wise ruler he may not, per- 
haps, think it either necessary or useful to set 
precise bounds to his power in all things), pre- 
rogative can be nothing but the people's permit- 
ting their rulers to do several things of their own 
free choice where the law was silent, and some- 
times too against the direct letter of the law, for 
the public good and their acquiescing in it when 
so done. For as a good prince, who is mindful of 
the trust put into his hands and careful of the 
good of his people, cannot have too much pre- 
rogative that is, power to do good, so a weak 
and ill prince, who would claim that power his 
predecessors exercised, without the direction of 
the law, as a prerogative belonging to him by 
right of his office, which he may exercise at his 
pleasure to make or promote an interest distinct 
from that of the public, gives the people an oc- 
casion to claim their right and limit that power, 
which, whilst it was exercised for their good, 
they were content should be tacitly allowed. 

165. And therefore he that will look into the 
history of England will find that prerogative was 
always largest in the hands of our wisest and best 
princes, because the people observing the whole 
tendency of their actions to be the public good, 
or if any human frailty or mistake (for princes 
are but men, made as others) appeared in some 
small decimations from that end, yet it was vis- 
ible the main of their conduct tended to nothing 
but the care of the public. The people, therefore, 
finding reason to be satisfied with these princes, 
whenever they acted without, or contrary to the 
letter of the law, acquiesced in what they did. 
and without the least complaint, let them en- 
large their prerogative as they pleased, judging 
rightly that they did nothing herein to the preju- 
dice of their laws, since they acted conformably 
to the foundation and end of all laws the pub- 
lic good. 

166. Such God-like princes, indeed, had some 
title to arbitrary power by that argument that 
would prove absolute monarchy the best gov- 
ernment, as that which God Himself governs the 
universe by, because such kings partake of His 
wisdom and goodness. Upon this is founded that 
saying, "That the reigns of good princes have 
been always most dangerous to the liberties of 
their people." For when their successors, man- 
aging the government with different thoughts, 
would draw the actions of those good rulers into 
precedent and make them the standard of their 
prerogative as if what had been done only for 



6 4 



JOHN LOCKE 



the good of the people was a right in them to do 
for the harm of the people, if they so pleased 
it has often occasioned contest, and sometimes 
public disorders, before the people could recover 
their original right and get that to be declared 
not to be prerogative which truly was never 
so; since it is impossible anybody in the soci- 
ety should ever have a right to do the people 
harm, though it be very possible and reasonable 
that the people should not go about to set any 
bounds to the prerogative of those kings or rulers 
who themselves transgressed not the bounds 
of the public good. For "prerogative is nothing 
but the power of doing public good without a 
rule." 

167. The power of calling parliaments in Eng- 
land, as to precise time, place, and duration, is 
certainly a prerogative of the king, but still with 
this trust, that it shall be made use of for the 
good of the nation as the exigencies of the times 
and variety of occasion shall require. For it be- 
ing impossible to foresee which should always 
be the fittest place for them to assemble in, and 
what the best season, the choice of these was left 
with the executive power, as might be best sub- 
servient to the public good and best suit the ends 
of parliament. 

1 68. The old question will be asked in this 
matter of prerogative, "But who shall be judge 
when this power is made a right use of?" I an- 
swer: Between an executive power in being, with 
such a prerogative, and a legislative that de- 
pends upon his will for their convening, there 
can be no judge on earth. As there can be none 
between the legislative and the people, should 
either the executive or the legislative, when they 

I have got the power in their hands, design, or go 
about to enslave or destroy them, the people 
have no other remedy in this, as in all other cases 
where they have no judge on earth, but to ap- 
peal to Heaven; for the rulers in such attempts, 
exercising a power the people never put into 
their hands, who can never be supposed to con- 
sent that anybody should rule over them for their 
harm, do that which they have not a right to do. 
And where the body of the people, or any single 
roan, are deprived of their right, or are under 
the exercise of a power without right, having no 
appeal on earth they have a liberty to appeal to 
Heaven whenever they judge the cause of suffi- 
cient moment, And therefore, though the people 
cannot be judge, so as to have, by the constitu- 
tion of that society, any superior power to deter- 
mine and give effective sentezxse in the case, yet 
they have reserved that ultimate determination 
to themselves which bekmgs to all mankind, 



where there lies no appeal on earth, by a law an- 
tecedent and paramount to all positive laws of 
men, whether they have just cause to make their 
appeal to Heaven. And this judgment they can- 
not part with, it being out of a man's power so 
to submit himself to another as to give him a lib- 
erty to destroy him; God and Nature never al- 
lowing a man so to abandon himself as to neg- 
lect his own preservation. And since he cannot 
take away his own life, neither can he give an- 
other power to take it. Nor let any one think this 
lays a perpetual foundation for disorder; for this 
operates not till the inconvenience is so great that 
the majority feel it, and are weary of it, and find 
a necessity to have it amended. And this the ex- 
ecutive power, or wise princes, never need come 
in the danger of; and it is the thing of all others 
they have most need to avoid, as, of all others, 
the most perilous. 

Chap. XV. Of Paternal, Political and 
, Despotical Power, Considered Together 

169. THOUGH I have had occasion to speak of 
these separately before, yet the great mistakes of 
late about government having, as I suppose, aris- 
en from confounding these distinct powers one 
with another, it may not perhaps be amiss to 
consider them here together. 

170. First, then, paternal or parental power is 
nothing but that which parents have over their 
children to govern them, for the children's good, 
till they come to the use of reason, or a state of 
knowledge, wherein they may be supposed ca- 
pable to understand that rule, whether it be the 
law of Nature or the municipal law of their coun- 
try, they are to govern themselves by capable, 
I say, to know it, as well as several others, who 
live as free men under that law. The affection 
and tenderness God hath planted in the breasts 
of parents towards their children makes it evi- 
dent that this is not intended to be a severe arbi- 
trary government, but only for the help, instruc- 
tion, and preservation of their offspring. But 
happen as it will, there is, as I have proved, no 
reason why it should be thought to extend to life 
and death, at any time, over their children, more 
than over anybody else, or keep the child in sub- 
jection to the will of his parents when grown to 
a man and the perfect use of reason, any farther 
than as having received life and education from 
his parents obliges him to respect, honour, grati- 
tude, assistance, and support, all his life, to both 
father and mother. And thus, it is true, the pa- 
ternal is a natural government, but not at all ex- 
tending itself to the ends and jurisdictions of that 
which is political. The power of the father doth 



CONCERNING CIVIL GOVERNMENT 



not reach at all to the property of the child, 
which is only in his own disposing. 

171. Secondly, political power is that power 
which every man having in the state of Nature 
has given up into the hands of the society, and 
therein to the governors whom the society hath 
set over itself, with this express or tacit trust, that 
it shall be employed for their good and the pres- 
ervation of their property. Now this power, which 
every man has in the state of Nature, and which 
he parts with to the society in all such cases where 
the society can secure him, is to use such means 
for the preserving of his own property as he thinks 
good and Nature allows him; and to punish the 
breach of the law of Nature in others so as (ac- 
cording to the best of his reason) may most con- 
duce to the preservation of himself and the rest 
of mankind; so that the end and measure of this 
power, when in every man's hands, in the state 
of Nature, being the preservation of all of his so- 
ciety that is, all mankind in general it can 
have no other end or measure, when in the hands 
of the magistrate, but to preserve the members 
of that society in their lives, liberties, and pos- 
sessions, and so cannot be an absolute, arbitrary 
power over their lives and fortunes, which are as 
much as possible to be preserved; but a power 
to make laws, and annex such penalties to them 
as may tend to the preservation of the whole, by 
cutting off those parts, and those only, which are 
so corrupt that they threaten the sound and heal- 
thy, without which no severity is lawful. And this 
power has its original only from compact and 
agreement and the mutual consent of those who 
make up the community. 

172. Thirdly, despotical power is an absolute, 
arbitrary power one man has over another, to 
take away his life whenever he pleases; and this 
is a power which neither Nature gives, for it has 
made no such distinction between one man and 
another, nor compact can convey. For man 3 not 
having such an arbitrary power over his own life, 
cannot give another man such a power over it, 
but it is the effect only of forfeiture which the 
aggressor-makes of his own life when he puts him- 
self into the state of war with another. For hav- 
ing quitted reason, which God hath given to be 
the rule betwixt man and man, and the peace- 
able ways which that teaches, and made use of 
force to compass his unjust ends upon another 
where he has no right, he renders himself liable 
to be destroyed by his adversary whenever he 
can, as any other noxious and brutish creature 
that is destructive to his being. And thus cap- 
tives, taken in a just and lawful war, and such 
only, are subject to a despotical power, which, as 



it arises not from compact, so neither is it capable 
of any, but is the state of war continued. For 
what compact can be made with a man that is 
not master of his own life? What condition can 
he perform? And if he be once allowed to be mas- 
ter of his own life, the despotical, arbitrary power 
of his master ceases. He that is master of himself 
and his own life has a right, too, to the means of 
preserving it; so that as soon as compact enters, 
slavery ceases, and he so far quits his absolute 
power and puts an end to the state of war who 
enters into conditions with his captive. 

173. Nature gives the first of these viz., pa- 
ternal power to parents for the benefit of their 
children during their minority, to supply then- 
want of ability and understanding how to man- 
age their property. (By property I must be un- 
derstood here, as hi other places, to mean that 
property which men have in their persons as well 
as goods.) Voluntary agreement gives the sec- 
ond viz., political power to governors, for the 
benefit of then: subjects, to secure them in the 
possession and use of then* properties. And for- 
feiture gives the third despotical power to lords 
for then- own benefit over those who are stripped 
of all property. 

174. He that shall consider the distinct rise 
and extent, and the different ends of these sev- 
eral powers, will plainly see that paternal power 
comes as far short of that of the magistrate as 
despotical exceeds it; and that absolute domin- 
ion, however placed, is so far from being one kind 
of civil society that it is as inconsistent with it as 
slavery is with property. Paternal power is only 
where minority makes the child incapable to 
manage his property; political where men have 
property in their own disposal; and despotical 
over such as have no property at all. 

Chap. XVI, Of Conquest 

175. THOUGH governments can originally have 
no other rise than that before mentioned, nor 
polities be founded on anything but the consent 
of the people, yet such have been the disorders 
ambition has filled the world with, that in the 
noise of war, which makes so great a part of the 
history of mankind, this consent is little taken 
notice of; and, therefore, many have mistaken 
the force of arms for the consent of the people, 
and reckon conquest as one of the originals of 
government But conquest is as far from setting 
up any government as demolishing a house is 
from building a new one in the place. Indeed, it 
often makes way for a new frame of a common- 
wealth by destroying the former; but, without the 
consent of the people, can never erect a new one. 



66 



JOHN LOCKE 



1 76. That the aggressor, who puts himself into 
the state of war with another, and unjustly in- 
vades another man's right, can, by such an un- 
just war, never come to have a right over the 
conquered, will be easily agreed by all men, who 
will not think that robbers and pirates have a 
right of empire over whomsoever they have force 
enough to master, or that men are bound by 
promises which unlawful force extorts from them, 
Should a robber break into my house, and, with 
a dagger at my throat, make me seal deeds to 
convey my estate to him, would this give him 
any title? Just such a title by his sword has an 
unjust conqueror who forces me into submission. 
The injury and the crime is equal, whether com- 
mitted by the wearer of a crown or some petty 
villain. The title of the offender and the number 
of his followers make no difference in the offence, 
unless it be to aggravate it. The only difference 
is, great robbers punish little ones to keep them 
in their obedience; but the great ones are re- 
warded with laurels and triumphs, because they 
are too big for the weak hands of justice in this 
world, and have the power in their own posses- 
sion which should punish offenders. What is my 
remedy against a robber that so broke into my 
house? Appeal to the law for justice. But perhaps 
justice is denied, or I am crippled and cannot 
stir; robbed, and have not the means to do it. If 
God has taken away all means of seeking remedy, 
there is nothing left but patience. But my son, 
when able, may seek the relief of the law, which 
I am denied; he or his son may renew his appeal 
till he recover his right. But the conquered, or 
their children, have no court no arbitrator on 
earth to appeal to. Then they may appeal, as 
Jephtha did, to Heaven, and repeat their appeal 
till they have recovered the native right of their 
ancestors, which was to have such a legislative 
over them as the majority should approve and 
freely acquiesce in. If it be objected this would 
cause endless trouble, I answer, no more than 
justice does, where she lies open to all that ap- 
peal to her. He that troubles his neighbour with- 
out a cause is punished for it by the justice of 
the court he appeals to. And he that appeals to 
Heaven must be sure he has right on his side, 
and a right, too, that is worth the trouble and 
cost of the appeal, as he will answer at a tribunal 
that cannot be deceived, and will be sure to re- 
tribute to every one according to the mischiefs he 
hath created to his fellow-subjects that is, any 
part of arcaaBfcbd. From whence it is plain that 
he that <8&qi*ers m an mgvgt war oa& tbersby 
have no title tp 0a|psfe$$ of 



177. But supposing victory favours the right 
side, let us consider a conqueror in a lawful war, 
and see what power he gets, and over whom. 

First, it is plain he gets no power by his con- 
quest over those that conquered with him. They 
that fought on his side cannot suffer by the con- 
quest, but must, at least, be as much free men 
as they were before. And most commonly they 
serve upon terms, and on condition to share with 
their leader, and enjoy a part of the spoil and 
other advantages that attend the conquering 
sword, or, at least, have a part of the subdued 
country bestowed upon them. And the conquer- 
ing people are not, I hope, to be slaves by con- 
quest, and wear their laurels only to show they 
are sacrifices to their leader's triumph. They that 
found absolute monarchy upon the title of the 
sword make their heroes, who are the founders 
of such monarchies, arrant "draw-can-sirs," and 
forget they had any officers and soldiers that 
fought on their side in the battles they won, or 
assisted them in the subduing, or shared in pos- 
sessing the countries they mastered. We are told 
by some that the English monarchy is founded 
in the Norman Conquest, and that our princes 
have thereby a title to absolute dominion, which, 
if it were true (as by the history it appears other- 
wise), and that William had a right to make war 
on this island, yet his dominion by conquest 
could reach no farther than to the Saxons and 
Britons that were then inhabitants of this coun- 
try. The Normans that came with him and helped 
to conquer, and all descended from them, are 
free men and no subjects by conquest, let that 
give what dominion it will. And if I or anybody 
else shall claim freedom as derived from them, 
it will be very hard to prove the contrary; and it 
is plain, the law that has made no distinction 
between the one and the other intends not there 
should be any difference in their freedom or 
privileges. * 

178. But supposing, which seldom happens, 
that the conquerors and conquered never incor- 
porate into one people under the same laws and 
freedom; let us see next what power a lawful con- 
queror has over the subdued, and that I say is 
purely despotical. He has an absolute power over 
the lives of those who, by an unjust war, have 
forfeited them, but not over the lives or fortunes 
of those who engaged not in the war, nor over 
the possessions even of those who were actually 
engaged in it, 

1 79. Secondly, I say, then, the conqueror gets 
BO power but only over those who have actually 
assisted, concurred, or consented to that unjust 

tnat is used against him. For the people 



CONCERNING CIVIL GOVERNMENT 



having given to their governors no power to do 
an unjust thing, such as is to make an unjust war 
(for they never had such a power in themselves), 
they ought not to be charged as guilty of the vio- 
lence and injustice that is committed in an un- 
just war any farther than they actually abet it, 
no more than they are to be thought guilty of 
any violence or oppression their governors should 
use upon the people themselves or any part of 
their fellow-subjects, they having empowered 
them no more to the one than to the other. Con- 
querors, it is true, seldom trouble themselves to 
make the distinction, but they willingly permit 
the confusion of war to sweep all together; but 
yet this alters not the right; for the conqueror's 
power over the lives of the conquered being only 
because they have used force to do or maintain 
an injustice, he can have that power only over 
those who have concurred in that force; all the 
rest are innocent, and he has no more title over 
the people of that country who have done him 
no injury, and so have made no forfeiture of their 
lives, than he has over any other who, without 
any injuries or provocations, have lived upon 
fair terms with him. 

1 80. Thirdly, the power a conqueror gets over 
those he overcomes in a just war is perfectly des- 
potical; he has an absolute power over the lives 
of those who, by putting themselves in a state of 
war, have forfeited them, but he has not thereby 
a right and title to their possessions. This I doubt 
not but at first sight will seein a strange doctrine, 
it being so quite contrary to the practice of the 
world; there being nothing more familiar in 
speaking of the dominion of countries than to say 
such an one conquered it, as if conquest, with- 
out any more ado, conveyed a right of posses- 
sion. But when we consider that the practice of 
the strong and powerful, how universal soever 
it may be, is seldom the rule of right, however it 
be one part of the subjection of the conquered 
not to argue against the conditions cut out to 
them by the conquering swords. 

1 8 1 . Though in all war there be usually a com- 
plication of force and damage, and the aggressor 
seldom fails to harm the estate when he uses force 
against the persons of those he makes war upon, 
yet it is the use of force only that puts a man into 
the state of war. For whether by force he begins 
the injury, or else having quietly and by fraud 
done the injury, he refuses to make reparation, 
and by force maintains it, which is the same thing 
as at first to have done it by force; it is the un- 
just use of force that makes the war. For he that 
breaks open my house and violently turns me 
out of doors, or having peaceably got in, by force 



keeps me out, does, in effect, the same thing; 
supposing we are in such a state that we have no 
common judge on earth whom I may appeal to, 
and to whom we are both obliged to submit, for 
of such I am now speaking. It is the unjust use of 
force, then, that puts a man into the state of war 
with another, and thereby he that is guilty of it 
makes a forfeiture of his life. For quitting reason, 
which is the rule given between man and man, 
and using force, the way of beasts, he becomes 
liable to be destroyed by him he uses force against, 
as any savage ravenous beast that is dangerous 
to his being. 

182. But because the miscarriages of the father 
are no faults of the children, who may be ra- 
tional and peaceable, notwithstanding the brut- 
ishness and injustice of the father, the father, by 
his miscarriages and violence, can forfeit but his 
own life, and involves not his children hi his 
guilt or destruction. His goods which Nature, 
that willeth the preservation of all mankind as 
much as is possible, hath made to belong to the 
children to keep them from perishing, do still 
continue to belong to his children. For suppos- 
ing them not to have joined in the war either 
through infancy or choice, they have done noth- 
ing to forfeit them, nor has the conqueror any 
right to take them away by the bare right of hav- 
ing subdued him that by force attempted his 
destruction, though, perhaps, he may have some 
right to them to repair the damages he has sus- 
tained by the war, and the defence of his own 
right, which how far it reaches to the possessions 
of the conquered we shall see by-and-by ; so that 
he that by conquest has a right over a man's per- 
son, to destroy him if he pleases, has not thereby 
a right over his estate to possess and enjoy it. For 
it is the brutal force the aggressor has used that 
gives his adversary a right to take away his life 
and destroy him, if he pleases, as a noxious crea- 
ture; but it is damage sustained that alone gives 
him title to another man's goods; for though I 
may kill a thief that sets on me in the highway, 
yet I may not (which seems less) take away his 
money and let him go; this would be robbery on 
my side. His force, and the state of war he put 
himself in, made him forfeit his life, but gave me 
no title to his goods. The right, then, of conquest 
extends only to the lives of those who joined in 
the war, but not to their estates, but only in or- 
der to make reparation for the damages received 
and the charges of the war, and that, too, with 
reservation of the right of the innocent wife and 
children, 

183, Let the conqueror have as much justice 
on his side as could be supposed, he has no right 



68 

to seize more than the vanquished could forfeit; 
his life is at the victor's mercy, and his service 
and goods he may appropriate to make himself 
reparation; but he cannot take the goods of his 
wife and children, they too had a title to the 
goods he enjoyed, and their shares in the estate 
he possessed. For example, I in the state of Na- 
ture (and all commonwealths are in the state of 
Nature one with another) have injured another 
man, and refusing to give satisfaction, it is come 
to a state of war wherein my defending by force 
what I had gotten unjustly makes me lie ag- 
gressor. I am conquered; my life, it is true, as 
forfeit, is at mercy, but not my wife's and chil- 
dren's. They made not the war, nor assisted in 
it I could not forfeit their lives, they were not 
mine to forfeit. My wife had a share in my es- 
tate, that neither could I forfeit. And my chil- 
dren also, being born of me, had a right to be 
maintained out of my labour or substance. Here 
then is the case: The conqueror has a title to rep- 
aration for damages received, and the children 
have a title to their father's estate for their sub- 
sistence. For as to the wife's share, whether her 
own labour or compact gave her a tide to it, it is 
plain her husband could not forfeit what was 
hers. What must be done in the case? I answer: 
The fundamental law of Nature being that all, 
as much as may be, should be preserved, it fol- 
lows that if there be not enough fully to satisfy 
both viz., for the conqueror's losses and chil- 
dren's maintenance, he that hath and to spare 
must remit something of his full satisfaction, and 
give way to the pressing and preferable title of 
those who are in danger to perish without it. 

184. But supposing the charge and damages 
of the war are to be made up to the conqueror 
to the utmost farthing, and that the children of 
the vanquished, spoiled of all their father's goods, 
are to be left to starve and perish, yet the satis- 
fying of what shall, on this score, be due to the 
conqueror will scarce give him a title to any 
country he shall conquer. For the damages of 
war can scarce amount to the value of any con- 
siderable tract of land in any part of the world, 
where all the land is possessed, and none lies 
waste. And if I have not taken away the con- 
queror's land which, being vanquished, it is im- 
possible I should, scarce any other spoil I have 
done htm can amount to the value of mine, sup- 
posing it of an extent any way coining near what 
I had overrun of his, and equally cultivated too. 
The distraction of a yearns product or two (for 
it seldom reaches four or five) is the utmost spoil 
that usually can be done. For as to mosey, and 
such riches and treasure taken away, these are 



JOHN LOCKE 



none of Nature's goods, they have but a phan- 
tastical imaginary value; Nature has put no such 
upon them. They are of no more account by her 
standard than the Wampompeke of the Amer- 
icans to an European prince, or the silver mon- 
ey of Europe would have been formerly to an 
American. And five years' product is not worth 
the perpetual inheritance of land, where all is 
possessed and none remains waste, to be taken 
up by him that is disseised, which will be easily 
granted, if one do but take away the imaginary 
value of money, the disproportion being more 
than between five and five thousand; though, at 
the same time, half a year's product is more 
worth than the inheritance where, there being 
more land than the inhabitants possess and make 
use of, any one has liberty to make use of the 
waste. But their conquerors take little care to 
possess themselves of the lands of the vanquish- 
ed. No damage therefore that men in the state 
of Nature (as all princes and governments are in 
reference to one another) suffer frpm one an- 
other can give a conqueror power to dispossess 
the posterity of the vanquished, and turn them 
out of that inheritance which ought to be the 
possession of them and their descendants to all 
generations. The conqueror indeed will be apt 
to think himself master; and it is the very con- 
dition of the subdued not to be able to dispute 
their right. But, if that be all, it gives no other 
title than what bare force gives to the stronger 
over the weaker; and, by this reason, he that is 
strongestwill have a right to whatever he pleases 
to seize on. 

185. Over those, then, that joined with him in 
the war, and over those of the subdued country 
that opposed him not, and the posterity even of 
those that did, the conqueror, even in a just war, 
hath, by his conquest, no right of dominion. 
They are free from any subjection to him, and if 
their former government be dissolved, they are 
at liberty to begin and erect another to them- 
selves. 

1 86. The conqueror, it is true, usually by the 
force he has over them, compels them, with a 
sword at their breasts, to stoop to his conditions, 
and submit to such a government as he pleases 
to afford them; but the inquiry is, what right he 
has to do so? If it be said they submit by their 
own consent, then this allows then* own consent 
to be necessary to give the conqueror a title to 
rule over them. It remains only to be considered 
whether promises, extorted by force, without 
right, can be thought consent, and how far they 
bind. To which I shall say, they bind not at all; 
because whatsoever another gets from me by 



CONCERNING CIVIL GOVERNMENT 



force, I still retain the right of, and he is obliged 
presently to restore. He that forces my horse from 
me ought presently to restore him, and I have 
still a right to retake him. By the same reason, 
he that forced a promise from me ought pres- 
ently to restore it i.e., quit me of the obligation 
of it; or I may resume it myself i.e., choose 
whether I will perform it. For the law of Nature 
laying an obligation on me, only by the rules 
she prescribes, cannot oblige me by the viola- 
tion of her rules; such is the extorting anything 
from me by force. Nor does it at all alter the 
case, to say I gave my promise, no more than it 
excuses the force, and passes the right, when I 
put my hand in my pocket and deliver my purse 
myself to a thief who demands it with a pistol at 
my breast. 

1 87. From all which it follows that the govern- 
ment of a conqueror, imposed by force on the 
subdued, against whom he had no right of war, 
or who joined not in the war against him, where 
he had right, has no obligation upon them. 

1 88. But let us suppose that all the men of that 
community being all members of the same body 
politic, may be taken to have joined in that un- 
just war, wherein they are subdued, and so their 
lives are at the mercy of the conqueror. 

189. 1 say this concerns not their children who 
are in their minority. For since a father hath 
not, in himself, a power over the life or liberty 
of his child, no act of his can possibly forfeit it; 
so that the children, whatever may have hap- 
pened to the fathers, are free men, and the ab- 
solute power of the conqueror reaches no farther 
than the persons of the men that were subdued 
by him, and dies with them; and should he gov- 
ern them as slaves, subjected to his absolute, ar- 
bitrary power, he has no such right of dominion 
over their children. He can have no power over 
them but by their own consent, whatever he 
may drive them to say or do, and he has no law- 
ful authority, whilst force, and not choice, com- 
pels them to submission. 

190. Every man is born with a double right. 
First, a right of freedom to his person, which no 
other man has a power over, but the free dis- 
posal of it lies in himself. Secondly, a right be- 
fore any other man, to inherit, with his breth- 
ren, his father's goods. 

191. By the first of these, a man is naturally 
free from subjection to any government, though 
he be born in a place under its jurisdiction. But 
if he disclaim the lawful government of the coun- 
try he was born in, he must also quit the right 
that belonged to him, by the laws of it, and the 
possessions there descending to Kim from his an* 



cestors, if it were a government made by their 
consent. 

192. By the second, the inhabitants of any 
country, who are descended and derive a title to 
their estates from those who are subdued, and 
had a government forced upon them, against 
their free consents, retain a right to the posses- 
sion of their ancestors, though they consent not 
freely to the government, whose hard conditions 
were, by force, imposed on the possessors of that 
country. For the first conqueror never having 
had a title to the land of that country, the peo- 
ple, who are the descendants of, or claim under 
those who were forced to submit to the yoke of a 
government by constraint, have always a right 
to shake it off, and free themselves from the 
usurpation or tyranny the sword hath brought in 
upon them, till their rulers put them under such 
a frame of government as they willingly and of 
choice consent to (which they can never be sup- 
posed to do, till either they are put in a full state 
of liberty to choose their government and gov- 
ernors, or at least till they have such standing 
laws to which they have, by themselves or their 
representatives, given then* free consent, and al- 
so till they are allowed their due property, which 
is so to be proprietors of what they have that no- 
body can take away any part of it without their 
own consent, without which, men under any 
government are not in the state of free men, but 
are direct slaves under the force of war). And 
who doubts but the Grecian Christians, descend- 
ants of the ancient possessors of that country, 
may justly cast off the Turkish yoke they have 
so long groaned under, whenever they have a 
power to do it? 

1 93. But granting that the conqueror, in a just 
war, has a right to the estates, as well as power 
over the persons of the conquered, which, it is 
plain, he hath not, nothing of absolute power 
will follow from hence in the continuance of the 
government. Because the descendants of these 
being all free men, if he grants them estates and 
possessions to inhabit his country, without which 
it would be worth nothing, whatsoever he grants 
them they have so far as it is granted property 
in; the nature whereof is, that, without a man's 
own consent, it cannot be taken from him. 

194. Their persons are free by a native right, 
and their properties, be they more or less, are 
their own,' and at their own dispose, and not at 
his; or else it is no property. Supposing the con- 
queror gives to one man a thousand acres, to 
him and his heirs for ever; to another he lets a 
thousand acres, for his life, under the rent of 
50 or 500 per aTvmrm, Has not the one of these 



JOHN LOCKE 



a right to his thousand acres for ever, and the 
other during his life, paying the said rent? And 
hath not the tenant for life a property in all that 
he gets over and above his rent, by his labour 
and industry, during the said term, supposing it 
be double the rent? Can any one say, the king, 
or conqueror, after his grant, may, by his power 
of conqueror, take away all, or part of the land, 
from the heirs of one, or from the other during 
his life, he paying the rent? Or, can he take 
away from either the goods or money they have 
got upon the said land at his pleasure? If he can, 
then all free and voluntary contracts cease, and 
are void in the world; there needs nothing but 
power enough to dissolve them at any time, and 
all the grants and promises of men hi power are 
but mockery and collusion. For can there be any- 
thing more ridiculous than to say, I give you 
and yours this for ever, and that in the surest 
and most solemn way of conveyance can be de- 
vised, and yet it is to be understood that I have 
right, if I please, to take it away from you again 
to-morrow? 

195. I will not dispute now whether princes 
are exempt from the laws of their country, but 
this I am sure, they owe subjection to the laws 
of God and Nature. Nobody, no power can ex- 
empt them from the obligations of that eternal 
law. Those are so great and so strong in the case 
of promises, that Omnipotency itself can be tied 
by them. Grants, promises, and oaths are bonds 
that hold the Almighty, whatever some flatter- 
ers say to princes of the world, who, all together, 
with all their people joined to them, are, in com- 
parison of the great God, but as a drop of the 
bucket, or a dust on the balance inconsider- 
able, nothing I 

196. The short of the case in conquest, is this: 
The conqueror, if he have a just cause, has a 
despotical right over the persons of all that actu- 
ally aided and concurred in the war against him, 
and a right to make up his damage and cost out 
of their labour and estates, so he injure not the 
right of any other. Over the rest of the people, if 
ttore were any that consented not to the war, 
and over the children of the captives themselves 
or the possessions of either he has no power, and 
so can bavey by virtue of conquest, no lawful title 
hfcnself to dominion over them, or derive it to 
fads posterity; but is an aggressor, and puts him- 
self in a state of war against them, and has no 
better a Fight of principality, be, nor any of his 
s*jeoe$s@rs* &aia Hingar, or Hubba* the Danes, 
had here in England, or Spartacus, had he con- 
quered $tal& ^We& is 

as soon a&Geidis&all pve those * 



jection courage and opportunity to do it. Thus, 
notwithstanding whatever title the kings of As- 
syria had over Judah, by the sword, God assist- 
ed Hezekiah to throw off the dominion of that 
conquering empire. "And the Lord was with 
Hezekiah, and he prospered; wherefore he went 
forth, and he rebelled against the king of Assyria, 
and served him not" (II Kings 18. 7). Whence 
it is plain that shaking off a power which force, 
and not right, hath set over any one, though it 
hath the name of rebellion, yet is no offence be- 
fore God, but that which He allows and coun- 
tenances, though even promises and covenants, 
when obtained by force, have intervened. For it 
is very probable, to any one that reads the story 
of Ahaz and Hezekiah attentively, that the As- 
syrians subdued Ahaz, and deposed him, and 
made Hezekiah king hi his father's lifetime, and 
that Hezekiah, by agreement, had done himhom- 
age, and paid him tribute till this time. 

Chap. XVII. Of Usurpation 

197. As conquest may be called a foreign usur- 
pation, so usurpation is a kind of domestic con- 
quest, with this difference that an usurper can 
never have right on his side, it being no usurpa- 
tion but where one is got into the possession of 
what another has right to. This, so far as it is 
usurpation, is a change only of persons, but not 
of the forms and rules of the government; for if 
the usurper extend his power beyond what, of 
right, belonged to the lawful princes or govern- 
ors of the commonwealth, it is tyranny added to 
usurpation. 

198, In all lawful governments the designa- 
tion of the persons who are to bear rule being as 
natural and necessary a part as the form of the 
government itself, and that which had its estab- 
lishment originally from the people the anar- 
chy being much alike, to have no form of gov- 
ernment at all, or to agree that it shall be mon- 
archical, yet appoint no way to design the per- 
son that shall have the power and be the mon- 
arch all commonwealths, therefore, with the 
form of government established, have rules also 
of appointing and conveying the right to those 
who are to have any share in the public author- 
ity; and whoever gets into the exercise of any 
part of the power by other ways than what the 
laws of the community have prescribed hath no 
right to be obeyed, though the form of the com- 
monwealth be still preserved, since he is not the 
person the laws have appointed, and, conse- 
quently, not the person the people have con- 
seated to* Nor can such an usurper, or any de- 
a?rTOf* from him, ever have a title till the people 



CONCERNING CIVIL GOVERNMENT 



are both at liberty to consent, and have actually 
consented, to allow and confirm in him the pow- 
er he hath till then usurped. 

Chap. XVIII. Of Tyranny 

1 99. As usurpation is the exercise of power which 
another hath a right to, so tyranny is the exer- 
cise of power beyond right, which nobody can 
have a right to; and this is making use of the 
power any one has in his hands, not for the good 
of those who are under it, but for his own pri- 
vate, separate advantage. When the governor, 
however entitled, makes not the law, but his will, 
the rule, and his commands and actions are not 
directed to the preservation of the properties of 
his people, but the satisfaction of his own ambi- 
tion, revenge, covetousness, or any other irreg- 
ular passion. 

200. If one can doubt this to be truth or rea- 
son because it comes from the obscure hand of a 
subject, I hope the authority of a king will make 
it pass with him. King James, in his speech to 
the Parliament, 1603, tells them thus: "I will 
ever prefer the weal of the public and of the whole 
commonwealth, in making of good laws and con- 
stitutions, to any particular and private ends of 
mine, thinking ever the wealth and weal of the 
commonwealth to be my greatest weal and world- 
ly felicity a point wherein a lawful king doth 
directly differ from a tyrant; for I do acknowl- 
edge that the special and greatest point of dif- 
ference that is between a rightful king and an 
usurping tyrant is this that whereas the proud 
and ambitious tyrant doth think his kingdom 
and people are only ordained for satisfaction of 
his desires and unreasonable appetites, the right- 
eous and just king doth, by the contrary, ac- 
knowledge himself to be ordained for the pro- 
curing of the wealth and property of his people." 
And again, in his speech to the Parliament, 1 609, 
he hath these words: "The king binds himself, 
by a double oath, to the observation of the fun- 
damental laws of his kingdom tacitly, as by be- 
ing a king, and so bound to protect, as well the 
people as the laws of his kingdom; and expressly 
by his oath at his coronation; so as every just 
king, in a settled kingdom, is bound to observe 
that paction made to his people, by his laws, in 
framing his government agreeable thereunto, ac- 
cording to that paction which God made with 
Noah after the deluge: 'Hereafter, seed-time, 
and harvest, and cold, and heat, and summer, 
and winter, and day, and night, shall not cease 
while the earth reoiainetV And therefore a kiag> 
governing in a settled kingdom, leaves to be a 
king, and d<5ge*#i^e& teto a tyran^ ,,as soon as 



he leaves off to rule according to his laws." And 
a little after: "Therefore, all kings that are not 
tyrants, or perjured, will be glad to bound them- 
selves within the limits of their laws, and they 
that persuade them the contrary are vipers, pests, 
both against them and the commonwealth." 
Thus, that learned king, who well understood 
the notions of things, makes the difference be- 
twixt a king and a tyrant to consist only in this: 
that one makes the laws the bounds of his power 
and the good of the public the end of his gov- 
ernment; the other makes all give way to his own 
will and appetite. 

20 1 . It is a mistake to think this fault is proper 
only to monarchies. Other forms of government 
are liable to it as well as that; for wherever the 
power that is put in any hands for the govern- 
ment of the people and the preservation of their 
properties is applied to other ends, and made 
use of to impoverish, harass, or subdue them to 
the arbitrary and irregular commands of those 
that have it, there it presently becomes tyranny, 
whether those that thus use it are one or many. 
Thus we read of the thirty tyrants at Athens, as 
well as one at Syracuse; and the intolerable do- 
minion of the Decemviri at Rome was nothing 
better. 

202. Wherever law ends, tyranny begins, if 
the law be transgressed to another's harm; and 
whosoever in authority exceeds the power given 
him by the law, and makes use of the force he 
has under his command to compass that upon 
the subject which the law allows not, ceases in 
that to be a magistrate, and acting without au- 
thority may be opposed, as any other man who 
by force invades the right of another. This is ac- 
knowledged in subordinate magistrates. He that 
hath authority to seize my person in the street 
may be opposed as a thief and a robber if he en- 
deavours to break into my house to execute a 
writ, notwithstanding that I know he has such a 
warrant and such a legal authority as will em- 
power him to arrest me abroad. And why this 
should not hold in the highest, as well as in the 
most inferior magistrate, I would gladly be in- 
formed. Is it reasonable that the eldest brother, 
because he has the greatest part of his father's 
estate, should thereby have a right to take away 
any of his younger brothers 5 portions? Or that a 
rich man, who possessed a whole country, should 
from thence have a right to seize, when he pleas- 
ed, the cottage and garden of his poor neigh- 
bour? The being rightfully possessed of great 
power and riches, exceedingly beyond the great- 
est part of the sons of Adam, is so far from being 
an excuse, much less a reason for rapine and op- 



JOHN LOCKE 



pression, which the endamaging another with- 
out authority is, that it is a great aggravation 
of it. For exceeding the bounds of authority is 
no more a right in a great than a petty officer, 
no more justifiable in a king than a constable. 
But so much the worse in him as that he has 
more trust put in him, is supposed, from the 
advantage of education and counsellors, to have 
better knowledge and less reason to do it, hav- 
ing already a greater share than the rest of his 
brethren. 

203. May the commands, then, of a prince be 
opposed? May he be resisted, as often as any one 
shall find himself aggrieved, and but imagine he 
has not right done him? This will unhinge and 
overturn all polities, and instead of government 
and order, leave nothing but anarchy and con- 
fiision. 

204. To this I answer: That force is to be op- 
posed to nothing but to unjust and unlawful force. 
Whoever makes any opposition in any other case 
draws on himself a just condemnation, both from 
God and man; and so no such danger or con- 
fusion will follow, as is often suggested. For 

205. First. As in some countries the person of 
the prince by the law is sacred, and so whatever 
he commands or does, his person is still free from 
all question or violence, not liable to force, or 
any judicial censure or condemnation. But yet 
opposition may be made to the illegal acts of any 
inferior officer or other commissioned by him, 
unless he will, by actually putting himself into a 
state of war with his people, dissolve the govern- 
ment, and leave them to that defence, which be- 
longs to every one hi the state of Nature. For of 
such things, who can tell what the end will be? 
And a neighbour kingdom has showed the world 
an odd example. In all other cases the sacred- 
ness of the person exempts him from all incon- 
veniencies, whereby he is secure, whilst the gov- 
ernment stands, from all violence and harm 
whatsoever, than which there cannot be a wiser 
constitution. For the harm he can do in his own 
person not being likely to happen often, nor to 
extend itself far, nor being able by his single 
strength to subvert the laws nor oppress the body 
of the people, should any prince have so much 
weakness and ill-nature as to be willing to do it. 
The inconveniency of some particular mischiefs 
that may happen sometimes when a heady prince 
comes to the throne are well recompensed by 
the peace of the public and security of the gov- 
ernment in the person of the chief magistrate, 
thus set out of the reach of danger; it being safer 
For the body that soaae few private men should 
be scaeli^^i^<laa%^10^g'dr than that the 



head of the republic should be easily and upon 
slight occasions exposed. 

206. Secondly. But this privilege, belonging 
only to the king's person, hinders not but they 
may be questioned, opposed, and resisted, who 
use unjust force, though they pretend a com- 
mission from him which the law authorises not; 
as is plain in the case of him that has the king's 
writ to arrest a man which is a full commission 
from the king, and yet he that has it cannot break 
open a man's house to do it, nor execute this 
command of the king upon certain days nor in 
certain places, though this commission have no 
such exception in it; but they are the limitations 
of the law, which, if any one transgress, the king's 
commission excuses him not. For the king's au- 
thority being given him only by the law, he can- 
not empower any one to act against the law, or 
justify him by his commission in so doing. The 
commissioner command of any magistrate where 
he has no authority, being as void and insignifi- 
cant as that of any private man, the difference 
between the one and the other being that the 
magistrate has some authority so far and to such 
ends, and the private man has none at all; for it 
is not the commission but the authority that 
gives the right of acting, and against the laws 
there can be no authority. But notwithstanding 
such resistance, the king's person and authority 
are still both secured, and so no danger to gov- 
ernor or government. 

207. Thirdly. Supposing a government 
wherein the person of the chief magistrate is 
not thus sacred, yet this doctrine of the lawful- 
ness of resisting all unlawful exercises of his pow- 
er will not, upon every slight occasion, endanger 
him or embroil the government; for where the 
injured party may be relieved and his damages 
repaired by appeal to the law, there can be no 
pretence for force, which is only to be used where 
a man is intercepted from appealing to the law. 
For nothing is to be accounted hostile force but 
where it leaves not the remedy of such an appeal, 
and it is such force alone that puts him that uses 
it into a state of war, and makes it lawful to re- 
sist him. A man with a sword hi his hand de- 
mands my purse on the highway, when perhaps 
I have not i2d. in my pocket. This man I may 
lawfully kill. To another I deliver 100 to hold 
only whilst I alight, which he refuses to restore 
me when I am got up again, but draws his 
sword to defend the possession of it by force. I 
endeavour to retake it. The mischief this man 
does me is a hundred, or possibly a thousand 
times more than the other perhaps intended me 
(whom I killed before he really did me any); 



CONCERNING CIVIL GOVERNMENT 



and yet I might lawfully kill the one and cannot 
so much as hurt the other lawfully. The reason 
whereof is plain; because the one using force 
which threatened my life, I could not have time 
to appeal to the law to secure it, and when it 
was gone it was too late to appeal. The law could 
not restore life to my dead carcass. The loss was 
irreparable; which to prevent the law of Nature 
gave me a right to destroy him who had put 
himself into a state of war with me and threat- 
ened my destruction. But in the other case, my 
life not being in danger, I might have the ben- 
efit of appealing to the law, and have reparation 
for my 100 that way. 

208. Fourthly. But if the unlawful acts done 
by the magistrate be maintained (by the power 
he has got), and the remedy, which is due by 
law, be by the same power obstructed, yet the 
right of resisting, even in such manifest acts of 
tyranny, will not suddenly, or on slight occa- 
sions, disturb the government. For if it reach no 
farther than some private men's cases, though 
they have a right to defend themselves, and to 
recover by force what by unlawful force is taken 
from them, yet the right to do so will not easily 
engage them in a contest wherein they are sure 
to perish; it being as impossible for one or a few 
oppressed men to disturb the government where 
the body of the people do not think themselves 
concerned in it, as for a raving madman or heady 
malcontent to overturn a well-settled state, the 
people being as little apt to follow the one as the 
other. 

209. But if either these illegal acts have ex- 
tended to the majority of the people, or if the 
mischief and oppression has light only on some 
few, but in such cases as the precedent and con- 
sequences seem to threaten all, and they are per- 
suaded in then* consciences that their laws, and 
with them, their estates, liberties, and lives are 
in danger, and perhaps their religion too, how 
they will be hindered from resisting illegal force 
used against them I cannot tell. This is an in- 
convenience, I confess, that attends all govern- 
ments whatsoever, when the governors have 
brought it to this pass, to be generally suspected 
of their people, the most dangerous state they 
can possibly put themselves in; wherein they are 
the less to be pitied, because it is so easy to be 
avoided. It being as impossible for a governor, 
if he really means the good of his people, and 
the preservation of them and their laws together, 
not to make them see and feel it, as it is for the 
father of a family not to let his children see he 
loves and takes care of them. 

210. But if all the world shall observe pre- 



tences of one kind, and actions of another, arts 
used to elude the law, and the trust of preroga- 
tive (which is an arbitrary power in some things 
left in the prince's hand to do good, not harm, 
to the people) employed contrary to the end for 
which it was given; if the people shall find the 
ministers and subordinate magistrates chosen, 
suitable to such ends, and favoured or laid by 
proportionably as they promote or oppose them; 
if they see several experiments made of arbitrary 
power, and that religion underhand favoured, 
though publicly proclaimed against, which is 
readiest to introduce it, and the operators in it 
supported as much as may be; and when that 
cannot be done, yet approved still, and liked 
the better, and a long train of acting show the 
counsels all tending that way, how can a man 
any more hinder himself from being persuaded 
in his own mind which way things are going; or, 
from casting about how to save himself, than he 
could from believing the captain of a ship he 
was in was carrying him and the rest of the com- 
pany to Algiers, when he found him always steer- 
ing that course, though cross winds, leaks in his 
ship, and want of men and provisions did often 
force him to turn his course another way for some 
time, which he steadily returned to again as soon 
as the wind, weather, and other circumstances 
would let him? 

Chap. XIX. Of the Dissolution oj 
Govsmmsnt 

211. HE that will, with any clearness, speak of 
the dissolution of government, ought in the first 
place to distinguish between the dissolution of 
the society and the dissolution of the govern- 
ment. That which makes the community, and 
brings men out of the loose state of Nature into 
one politic society, is the agreement which every 
one has with the rest to incorporate and act as 
one body, and so be one distinct commonwealth. 
The usual, and almost only way whereby this 
union is dissolved, is the inroad of foreign force 
making a conquest upon them. For in that case 
(not being able to maintain and support them- 
selves as one entire and independent body) the 
union belonging to that body, which consisted 
therein, must necessarily cease, and so every one 
return to the state he was in before, with a lib- 
erty to shift for himself and provide for his own 
safety, as he thinks fit, in some other society. 
Whenever the society is dissolved, it is certain 
the government of that society cannot remain. 
Thus conquerors' swords often cut up govern- 
ments by the roots, and mangle societies to 
pieces, separating the subdued or scattered mul- 



74 



JOHN LOCKE 



titude from the protection of and dependence on 
that society which ought to have preserved them 
from violence. The world is too well instructed 
in, and too forward to allow of this way of dis- 
solving of governments, to need any more to be 
said of it; and there wants not much argument 
to prove that where the society is dissolved, the 
government cannot remain; that being as im- 
possible as for the frame of a house to subsist 
when the materials of it are scattered and dis- 
placed by a whirlwind, or jumbled into a con- 
fused heap by an earthquake. 

212. Besides this overturning from without, 
governments are dissolved from within: 

First. When the legislative is altered, civil so- 
ciety being a state of peace amongst those who 
are of it, from whom the state of war is excluded 
by the umpirage which they have provided in 
then- legislative for the ending all differences 
that may arise amongst any of them; it is in 
their legislative that the members of a common- 
wealth are united and combined together into 
one coherent living body. This is the soul that 
gives form, life, and unity to the commonwealth; 
from hence the several members have their mu- 
tual influence, sympathy, and connection; and 
therefore when the legislative is broken, or dis- 
solved, dissolution and death follows. For the 
essence and union of the society consisting in 
having one will, the legislative, when once es- 
tablished by the majority, has the declaring and, 
as it were, keeping of that will. The constitution 
of the legislative is the first and fundamental act 
of society, whereby provision is made for the 
continuation of their union under the direction 
of persons and bonds of laws, made by persons 
authorised thereunto, by the consent and ap- 
pointment of the people, without which no one 
man, or number of men, amongst them can 
have authority of making laws that shall be bind- 
ing to the rest. When any one, or more, shall 
take upon them to make laws whom the people 
have not appointed so to do, they make laws 
without authority, which the people are not 
therefore bound to obey; by which means they 
come again to be out of subjection, and may 
constitute to themselves a new legislative, as 
they thMc best, being in full liberty to resist the 
force of those who, without authority, would im- 
pose anything upon them. Every one is at the 
disposare of his own will, when those who had, 
by the delegation of the society, the declaring 
of <&& ptifoJk wiH, are excluded* fern it, and 

mick au- 




in the commonwealth, who misuse the power 
they have, it is hard to consider it aright, and 
know at whose door to lay it, without knowing 
the form of government in which it happens. 
Let us suppose, then, the legislative placed in 
the concurrence of three distinct persons: First, 
a single hereditary person having the constant, 
supreme, executive power, and with it the pow- 
er of convoking and dissolving the other two 
within certain periods of time. Secondly, an as- 
sembly of hereditary nobility. Thirdly, an as- 
sembly of representatives chosen, pro tempore, by 
the people. Such a form of government sup- 
posed, it is evident: 

214. First, that when such a single person or 
prince sets up his own arbitrary will in place of 
the laws which are the will of the society de- 
clared by the legislative, then the legislative is 
changed. For that being, in effect, the legislative 
whose rules and laws are put in execution, and 
required to be obeyed, when other laws are set 
up, and other rules pretended and enforced than 
what the legislative, constituted by the society, 
have enacted, it is plain that the legislative is 
changed. Whoever introduces new laws, not 
being thereunto authorised, by the fundamental 
appointment of the society, or subverts the old, 
disowns and overturns the power by which they 
were made, and so sets up a new legislative. 

215. Secondly, when the prince hinders the 
legislative from assembling in its due time, qr 
from acting freely, pursuant to those ends for 
which it was constituted, the legislative is al- 
tered. For it is not a certain number of men 
no, nor their meeting, unless they have also free- 
dom of debating and leisure of perfecting what 
is for the good of the society, wherein the legis- 
lative consists; when these are taken away, or 
altered, so as to deprive the society of the due 
exercise of their power, the legislative is truly al- 
tered. For it is not names that constitute gov- 
ernments, but the use and exercise of those pow- 
ers that were intended to accompany them; so 
that he who takes away the freedom, or hinders 
the acting of the legislative in its due seasons, in 
effect takes away the legislative, and puts an 
end to the government. 

216. Thirdly, when, by the arbitrary power 
of the prince, the electors or ways of election are 
altered without the consent and contrary to the 
common interest of the people, there also the 
legislative is altered. For if others than those 
whom the society hath authorised thereunto do 
choose, or in another way than what the society 
hath prescribed, those chosen are.not the legis- 

appointed |>y the people. 



CONCERNING CIVIL GOVERNMENT 



217. Fourthly, the delivery also of the people 
into the subjection of a foreign power, either by 
the prince or by the legislative, is certainly a 
change of the legislative, and so a dissolution of 
the government. For the end why people en- 
tered into society being to be preserved one en- 
tire, free, independent society to be governed 
by its own laws, this is lost whenever they are 
given up into the power of another. 

218. Why, in such a constitution as this, the 
dissolution of the government in these cases is to 
be imputed to the prince is evident, because he, 
having the force, treasure, and offices of the 
State to employ, and often persuading himself 
or being flattered by others, that, as supreme 
magistrate, he is incapable of control; he alone 
is in a condition to make great advances towards 
such changes under pretence of lawful authority, 
and has it in his hands to terrify or suppress op- 
posers as factious, seditious, and enemies to the 
government; whereas no other part of the legis- 
lative, or people, is capable by themselves to at- 
tempt any alteration of the legislative without 
open and visible rebellion, apt enough to be 
taken notice of, which, when it prevails, pro- 
duces effects very little different from foreign 
conquest. Besides, the prince, in such a form of 
government, having the power of dissolving the 
other parts of the legislative, and thereby ren- 
dering them private persons, they can never, in 
opposition to him, or without his concurrence, 
alter the legislative by a law, his consent being 
necessary to give any of their decrees that sanc- 
tion. But yet so far as the other parts of the legis- 
lative any way contribute to any attempt upon 
the government, and do either promote, or not, 
what lies in them, hinder such designs, they are 
guilty, and partake in this, which is certainly 
the greatest crime men can be guilty of one to- 
wards another. 

219. There is one way more whereby such a 
government may be dissolved, and that is: When 
he who has the supreme executive power neg- 
lects and abandons that charge, so that the laws 
already made can no longer be put in execu- 
tion; this is demonstratively to reduce all to an- 
archy, and so effectively to dissolve the govern- 
ment For laws not being made for themselves, 
but to be, by their execution, the bonds of the 
society to keep every part of the body politic in 
its due place and function. When that totally 
ceases, the government visibly ceases, and the 
people become a confused multitude without 
order or connection. Where there is no longer 
the administration of justice for the securing of 
men's rights, nor any mnaining power within 



the community to direct the force, or provide 
for the necessities of the public, there certainly 
is no government left. Where. the laws cannot be 
executed it is all one as if there were no laws, 
and a government without laws is, I suppose, a 
mystery in politics inconceivable to human ca- 
pacity, and inconsistent with human society. 

220. In these, and the like cases, when the 
government is dissolved, the people are at lib- 
erty to provide for themselves by erecting a new 
legislative differing from the other by the change 
of persons, or form, or both, as they shall find 
it most for their safety and good. For the society 
can never, by the fault of another, lose the na- 
tive and original right it has to preserve itself, 
which can only be done by a settled legislative 
and a fair and impartial execution of the laws 
made by it. But the state of mankind is not so 
miserable that they are not capable of using this 
remedy till it be too late to look for any. To tell 
people they may provide for themselves by erect- 
ing a new legislative, when, by oppression, arti- 
fice, or being delivered over to a foreign power, 
their old one is gone, is only to tell them they 
may expect relief when it is too late, and the 
evil is past cure. This is, in effect, no more than 
to bid them first be slaves, and then to take care 
of their liberty, and, when their chains are on, 
tell them they may act like free men. This, if 
barely so, is rather mockery than relief, and 
men can never be secure from tyranny if there 
be no means to escape it till they are perfectly 
under it; and, therefore, it is that they have not 
only a right to get out of it, but to prevent it. 

221. There is, therefore, secondly, smother way 
.whereby governments are dissolved, and that 
is, when the legislative, or the prince, either of 
them act contrary to their trust 

For the legislative acts against the trust re- 
posed in them when they endeavour to invade 
the property of the subject, and to make them- 
selves, or any part of the community, masters or 
arbitrary disposers of the lives, liberties, or for 
tunes of the people. 

222. The reason why men enter into society 
is the preservation of their property; and the 
end while they choose and authorise a legisla- 
tive is that there may be laws made, and rules 
set, as guards and fences to the properties of all 
the society, to limit the power and moderate the 
dominion of every part and member of the so- 
ciety. For since it can never be supposed to be 
the will of the society that the legislative should 
have a power to destroy that which every one 
designs to secure by entering into society, and 
for which the people submitted themselves to 



JOHN LOCKE 



legislators of their own making: whenever the 
legislators endeavour to take away and destroy 
the property of the people, or to reduce them to 
slavery under arbitrary power, they put them- 
selves into a state of war with the people, who 
are thereupon absolved from any farther obedi- 
ence, and are left to the common refuge which 
God hath provided for all men against force and 
violence. Whensoever, therefore, the legislative 
shall transgress this fundamental rule of society, 
and either by ambition, fear, folly, or corrup- 
tion, endeavour to grasp themselves, or put into 
the hands of any other, an absolute power over 
the lives, liberties, and estates of the people, by 
this breach of trust they forfeit the power the 
people had put into their hands for quite con- 
trary ends, and it devolves to the people, who 
have a right to resume their original liberty, and 
by the establishment of a new legislative (such 
as they shall think fit), provide for their own 
safety and security, which is the end for which 
they are in society. What I have said here con- 
cerning the legislative in general holds true also 
concerning the supreme executor, who having 
a double trust put in Mm, both to have a part 
in the legislative and the supreme execution of 
the law, acts against both, when he goes about 
to set up his own arbitrary will as the law of the 
society. He acts also contrary to his trust when 
he employs the force, treasure, and offices of the 
society to corrupt the representatives and gain 
them to his purposes, when he openly pre-en- 
gages the electors, and prescribes, to their choice, 
such whom he has, by solicitation, threats, prom- 
ises, or otherwise, won to his designs, and em- 
ploys them to bring in such who have promised 
beforehand what to vote and what to enact. 
Thus to regulate candidates and electors, and 
new model the ways of election, what is it but 
to cut up the government by the roots, and poi- 
son the very fountain of public security? For the 
people having reserved to themselves the choice 
of their representatives as the fence to their prop- 
erties, could do it for no other end but that they 
might always be freely chosen, and so chosen, 
freely act and advise as the necessity of the com- 
monwealth and the public good should, upon 
examination and mature debate, be judged to 
require. This, those who give -their votes before 
they hear the debate, and have weighed the rea- 
sons on all sides, are not capable of doing. To 
prepare siich an assembly as this, and endeavour 
to set up the declared abettors of his own will, 
for the true representatives of tibe people, and 
the law-naalbers of the society, is certainly as 
great al bi>eaefi offcwt, and as peirfeci a declara- 



tion of a design to subvert the government, as is 
possible to be met with. To which, if one shall 
add rewards and punishments visibly employed 
to the same end, and all the arts of perverted 
law made use of to take off and destroy all that 
stand in the way of such a design, and will not 
comply and consent to betray the liberties of 
their country, it will be past doubt what is doing. 
What power they ought to have in the society 
who thus employ it contrary to the trust that 
along with it in its first institution, is easy to de- 
termine; and one cannot but see that he who 
has once attempted any such thing as this can- 
not any longer be trusted. 

223. To this, perhaps, it will be said that the 
people being ignorant and always discontented, 
to lay the foundation of government in the un- 
steady opinion and uncertain humour of the 
people, is to expose it to certain ruin; and no 
government will be able long to subsist if the 
people may set up a new legislative whenever 
they take offence at the old one. To this I an- 
swer, quite the contrary. People are not so eas- _ 
ily got out of their old forms as some are apt to 
suggest. They are hardly to be prevailed with to 
amend the acknowledged faults in the frame 
they have been accustomed to. And if there be 
any original defects, or adventitious ones intro- 
duced by time or corruption, it is not an easy 
thing to get them changed, even when all the 
world sees there is an opportunity for it. This 
slowness and aversion in the people to quit their 
oldconstitutionshasinthemanyrevolutionsfthat] 
have been seen in this kingdom, in this and for- 
mer ages, still kept us to, or after some interval 
of fruitless attempts, still brought us back again 
to, our old legislative of king, lords and com- 
mons; and whatever provocations have made 
the crown be taken from some of our princes* 
heads, they never carried the people so far as to 
place it in another line. 

224. But it will be said lids hypothesis lays a fer- 
ment for frequent rebellion. To which I answer: 
, First: no more than any other hypothesis. For 
when the people are made miserable, and find 
themselves exposed to the ill usage of arbitrary 
power, cry up their governors as much as you 
will for sons of Jupiter, let them be sacred and 
divine, descended or authorised from Heaven; 
give them out for whom or what you please, the 
same will happen. The people generally ill treat- 
ed, and contrary to right, will be ready upon 
any occasion to ease themselves of a burden that 
sits heavy upon them. They will wish and seek 
for the opportunity, which in the change, weak- 
ness, and accidents of human affairs, seldom de- 



CONCERNING CIVIL GOVERNMENT 



77 



lays long to offer itself. He must have lived but 
a little while in the world, who has not seen 
examples of this in his time; and he must have 
read very little who cannot produce examples 
of it in all sorts of governments in the world. 

225. Secondly: I answer, such revolutions hap- 
pen not upon every little mismanagement in 
public affairs. Great mistakes in the ruling part, 
many wrong and inconvenient laws, and all the 
slips of human frailty will be borne by the peo- 
ple without mutiny or murmur. But if a long 
train of abuses, prevarications, and artifices, all 
tending the same way, make the design visible 
to the people, and they cannot but feel what 
they lie under, and see whither they are going, 
it is not to be wondered that they should then 
rouse themselves, and endeavour to put the rule 
into such hands which may secure to them the 
ends for which government was at first erected, 
and without which, ancient names and specious 
forms are so far from being better, that they are 
much worse than the state of Nature or pure 
anarchy; the inconveniencies being all as great 
and as near, but the remedy farther off and 
more difficult. 

226. Thirdly: I answer, that this power in the 
people of providing for their safety anew by a 
new legislative when their legislators have acted 
contrary to their trust by invading their prop- 
erty, is the best fence against rebellion, and the 
probable means to hinder it. For rebellion be- 
ing an opposition, not to persons, but authority, 
which is founded only in the constitutions and 
laws of the government: those, whoever they be, 
who, by force, break through, and, by force, jus- 
tify their violation of them, are truly and prop- 
erly rebels. For when men, by entering into so- 
ciety and civil government, have excluded force, 
and introduced laws for the preservation of prop- 
erty, peace, and unity amongst themselves, those 
who set up force again in opposition to the laws, 
do rebellare that is, bring back again the state 
of war, and are properly rebels, which they who 
are in power, by the pretence they have to au- 
thority, the temptation of force they have in their 
hands, and the flattery of those about them be- 
ing likeliest to do, the proper way to prevent 
the evil is to show them the danger and injustice 
of it who are under the greatest temptation to 
run into it. 

227. In both the forementioned cases, when 
either the legislative is changed, or the legisla- 
tors act contrary to the end for which they were 
constituted, those who are guilty are guilty of 
rebellion. For if any one by force takes away the 
established legislative of any society, and the 



laws by them made, pursuant to their trust, he 
thereby takes away the umpirage which every 
one had consented to for a peaceable decision of 
all their controversies, and a bar to the state of 
war amongst them. They who remove or change 
the legislative take away this decisive power, 
which nobody can have but by the appointment 
and consent of the people, and so destroying the 
authority which the people did, and nobody 
else can, set up, and introducing a power which 
the people hath not authorised, actually intro- 
duce a state of war, which is that of force with- 
out authority; and thus by removing the legisla- 
tive established by the society, in whose deci- 
sions the people acquiesced and united as to that 
of their own will, they untie the knot, and ex- 
pose the people anew to the state of war. And if 
those, who by force take away the legislative, 
are rebels, the legislators themselves, as has been 
shown, can be no less esteemed so, when they 
who were set up for the protection and preserva- 
tion of the people, their liberties and properties 
shall by force invade and endeavour to take them 
away; and so they putting themselves into a state 
of war with those who made them the protectors 
and guardians of their peace, are properly, and 
with the greatest aggravation, rebellantes, rebels. 
228. But if they who say it lays a foundation 
for rebellion mean that it may occasion civil 
wars or intestine broils to tell the people they are 
absolved from obedience when illegal attempts 
are made upon their liberties or properties, and 
may oppose the unlawful violence of those who 
were their magistrates when they invade their 
properties, contrary to the trust put in them, 
and that, therefore, this doctrine is not to be al- 
lowed, being so destructive to the peace of the 
world; they may as well say, upon the same 
ground, that honest men may not oppose rob- 
bers or pirates, because this may occasion dis- 
order or bloodshed. If any mischief come in such 
cases, it is not to be charged upon him who de- 
fends his own right, but on him that invades his 
neighbour's. If the innocent honest man must 
quietly quit all he has for peace sake to him who 
will lay violent hands upon it, I desire it may be 
considered what kind of a peace there will be in 
the world which consists only in violence and 
rapine, and which is to be maintained only for 
the benefit of robbers and oppressors. Who would 
not think it an admirable peace betwixt the 
mighty and the mean, when the lamb, without 
resistance, yielded his throat to be torn by the 
imperious wolf? Polyphemus's den gives us a per- 
fect pattern of such a peace. Such a government 
wherein Ulysses and his companions had noth- 



JOHN LOCKE 



ing to do but quietly to suffer themselves to be 
devoured. And no doubt Ulysses, who was a pru- 
dent man, preached up passive obedience, and 
exhorted them to a quiet submission by repre- 
senting to them of what concernment peace was 
to mankind, and by showing [what] inconvenien- 
cies might happen if they should offer to resist 
PolyphemuSj who had now the power over them. 

229. The end of government is the good of 
mankind; and which is best for mankind, that 
the people should be always exposed to the 
boundless will of tyranny, or that the rulers 
should be sometimes liable to be opposed when 
they grow exorbitant in the use of their power, 
and employ it for the destruction, and not the 
preservation, of the properties of their people? 

230. Nor let any one say that mischief can 
arise from hence as often as it shall please a busy 
head or turbulent spirit to desire the alteration 
of the government. It is true such men may stir 
whenever they please, but it will be only to their 
own just ruin and perdition. For till the mischief 
be grown general, and the ill designs of the rulers 
become visible, or their attempts sensible to the 
greater part, the people, who are more disposed 
to suffer than right themselves by resistance, are 
not apt to stir. The examples of particular in- 
justice or oppression of here and there an unfor- 
tunate man moves them not. But if they univer- 
sally have a persuasion grounded upon manifest 
evidence that designs are carrying on against 
their liberties, and the general course and ten- 
dency of things cannot but give them strong sus- 
picions of the evil intention of their governors, 
who is to be blamed for it? Who can help it if 
they, who might avoid it, bring themselves into 
this suspicion? Are the people to be blamed if 
they have the sense of rational creatures, and 
can think of things no otherwise than as they 
find and feel them? And is it not rather their 
fault who put things in such a posture that they 
would not have them thought as they are? I grant 
that the pride, ambition, and turbulency of pri- 
vate men have sometimes caused great disorders 
in commonwealths, and factions have been fatal 
to states and kingdoms. But whether the mis- 
chief hath oftener begun in the people's wanton- 
ness, and a desire to cast off the lawful authority 
of their rulers, or in the rulers* insolence and en- 
deavours to get and exercise an arbitrary power 
over their people, whether oppression or diso- 
bedience gave the first rise to the disorder, I leave 
it to impartial history to determine. This I am 
sure, whoever, ^jje^ruter; or su]qect, by force 
goes abcp t to i^^ejt^righ& pfsuther prince 
or 



ing the constitution and frame of any just gov- 
ernment, he is guilty of the greatest crime I think 
a man is capable of, being to answer for all those 
mischiefs of blood, rapine, and desolation, which 
the breaking to pieces of governments bring on 
a country; and he who does it is justly to be es- 
teemed the common enemy and pest of man- 
kind, and is to be treated accordingly. 

23 1 . That subjects or foreigners attempting by 
force on the properties of any people may be re- 
sisted with force is agreed on all hands; but that 
magistrates doing the same thing may be resist- 
ed, hath of late been denied; as if those who had 
the greatest privileges and advantages by the law 
had thereby a power to break those laws by which 
alone they were set in a better place than their 
brethren; whereas their offence is thereby the 
greater, both as being ungrateful for the greater 
share they have by the law, and breaking also 
that trust which is put into their hands by their 
brethren. 

232. Whosoever uses force without right as 
every one does in society who does it without 
law puts himself into a state of war with those 
against whom he so uses it, and in that state all 
former ties are cancelled, all other rights cease, 
and every one has a right to defend himself, and 
to resist the aggressor. This is so evident that 
Barclay himself that great assertor of the pow- 
er and sacredness of kings is forced to confess 
that it is lawful for the people, in some cases, to 
resist their king, and that, too, in a chapter 
wherein he pretends to show that the Divine law 
shuts up the people from all manner of rebellion. 
Whereby it is evident, even by his own doctrine, 
that since they may, in some cases, resist, all re- 
sisting of princes is not rebellion. His words are 
these: "Quodsiquis dicat, Ergone populus tyrannica 
crudelitati etfurori jugulum semper pr&bebit? Ergone 
multitude civitatessuasfame,ferro, etflammd vastari, 
seque, conjuges, et liberos fortuna ludibrio et tyranni 
libidini exponi, inque omnia vita pericula omnesque 
miserias et motestias & rege deduct patientur? Num Hits 
quod omni ardmantium generi est & naturd tributum, 
denegari debet, ut sc. mm vi repellant, seseque ab inju- 
rid tueantur? Huic breviter responsum sit, populo uni- 
verso negari defensionem, qua juris naturalis est, ne- 
que ultionem qua prater naturam est adversus regem 
concedi debere. Quapropter si rex non in singulars tan- 
turn personas aliquot privatum odium exerceat, sed cor- 
pus etiam reipublica, cujus ipse caput est i.e., tot urn 
populum, ml insignem aliquam ejus partem immani et 
intderandd s&mtid sen tyrannide divexet; p^pulo s qui- 
dem hoc casu resistendi ac tuendi se ab injurid patestas 
competit^ sed tuendi se ionium, non enim in principem 
wvadtndi: et rtstituenda injuria Ulata, non recedendi 



CONCERNING CIVIL GOVERNMENT 



79 



& debitd reverentid propter acceptum injuriam. Pre- 
sentem denique impetum propulsandi non vim prateri- 
tam ulciscendijus habet. Horum enim alterum a naturd 
est, ut vitam scilicet corpusque tueamur. Alterum vero 
contra naturam, ut inferior de superiori supplicium su- 
mat. Quod itaque populus malum, antequam Jactum 
sit, impedire potest, nejiat, id postquam jactum est, in 
regem authorem sceleris vindicare non potest, populus 
igitur hoc amplius quam privatus quispiam habet: 
Quod huic, vel ipsis adversariis judici bus, excepto Bu- 
chanano, nullum nisi in patientia remedium superest. 
Cum ille si intolerabilis tyrannis est (modicum enim 
ferre omnino debet) resistere cum reverentid possit. 39 
Barclay, Contra Monarchomackos, in. 8. 

In English thus: 

233. "But if any one should ask: Must the peo- 
ple, then, always lay themselves open to the cruel- 
ty and rage of tyranny must they see their cit- 
ies pillaged and laid in ashes, their wives and 
children exposed to the tyrant's lust and fury, 
and themselves and families reduced by their 
king to ruin and all the miseries of want and op- 
pression, and yet sit still must men alone be 
debarred the common privilege of opposing force 
with force, which Nature allows so freely to all 
other creatures for their preservation from inju- 
ry? I answer: Self-defence is a part of the law of 
Nature; nor can it be denied the community, 
even against the king himself; but to revenge 
themselves upon him must, by no means, be al- 
lowed them, it being not agreeable to that law. 
Wherefore, if the king shall show an hatred, not 
only to some particular persons, but sets himself 
against the body of the commonwealth, whereof 
he is the head, and shall, with intolerable ill- 
usage, cruelly tyrannise over the whole, or a con- 
siderable part of the people; in this case the peo- 
ple have a right to resist and defend themselves 
from injury; but it must be with this caution, 
that they only defend themselves, but do not at- 
tack their prince. They may repair the damages 
received, but must not, for any provocation, ex- 
ceed the bounds of due reverence and respect 
They may repulse the present attempt, but must 
not revenge past violences. For it is natural for 
us to defend life and limb, but that an inferior 
should punish a superior is against nature. The 
mischief which is designed them the people may 
prevent before it be done, but, when it is done, 
they must not revenge it on the king, though au- 
thor of the villany. This, therefore, is the privi- 
lege of the people in general above what any 
private person hath: That particular men are 
allowed, by our adversaries themselves (Bucha- 
nan only excepted), to have no other remedy but 
patience; but the body of the people may, with 



respect, resist intolerable tyranny, for when it is 
but moderate they ought to endure it.'* 

234. Thus far that great advocate of monar- 
chical power allows of resistance. 

235. It is true, he has annexed two limitations 
to it, to no purpose: 

First. He says it must be with reverence. 

Secondly. It must be without retribution or 
punishment; and the reason he gives is, "because 
an inferior cannot punish a superior." 

First. How to resist force without striking 
again, or how to strike with reverence, will need 
some skill to make intelligible. He that shall op- 
pose an assault only with a shield to receive the 
blows, or in anymore respectful posture, without 
a sword hi his hand to abate the confidence and 
force of the assailant, will quickly be at an end 
of his resistance, and will find such a defence 
serve only to draw on himself the worse usage. 
This is as ridiculous a way of resisting as Juvenal 
thought it of fighting: Ub i tu pulsas, ego vapulo 
tantum. And the success of the combat will be 
unavoidably the same he there describes it: 

Libertas paupe ris h&c est; 
Pulsatus rogat, et pugnis concisus, adorat t 
Ut liceat paucis cum dentibus inde reverti. 

This will always be the event of such an imagi- 
nary resistance, where men may not strike again. 
He, therefore, who may resist must be allowed to 
strike. And then let our author, or anybody else, 
join a knock on the head or a cut on the face with 
as much reverence and respect as he thinks fit. 
He that can reconcile blows and reverence may, 
for aught I know, deserve for his pains a civil, re- 
spectful cudgelling wherever he can meet with it. 

Secondly. As to his second "An inferior can- 
not punish a superior" that is true, generally 
speaking, whilst he is his superior. But to resist 
force with force, being the state of war that lev- 
els the parties, cancels all former relation of rev- 
erence, respect, and superiority; and then the 
odds that remains is that he who opposes the 
unjust aggressor has this superiority over him, 
that he has a right, when he prevails, to punish 
the offender, both for the breach of the peace 
and all the evils that followed upon it. Barclay, 
therefore, in another place, more coherently to 
himself, denies it to be lawful to resist a king in 
any case. But he there assigns two cases whereby 
a king may unking himself. His words are: 

"Quid ergo, nulline casus incidere possunt quibus 
populo sese engere atque in regem impotentius domi- 
nantem arma caper e et invader e jure suo sudque autho- 
ritate liceat? Nutti certe quamdiu rex manet. Semper 
enim ex dimms id obstat, Regem hononficato, et qui 



8o 



JOHN LOCKE 



potestati resistit, Dei ordinationi resistit; non alias igi- 
tur in eum populo potestas est quam si id committat 
propter quod ipsojure rex esse desinat. Tune enim se 
ipse principatu exuit atque in privatis constituit liber; 
hoc modo populus et superior efficitur, reverse ad eum 
scilicet jure illo quod ante regem inauguratum in inter- 
regno habuit. At sunt paucorum generum commissa ejus- 
modi qu& hunc effectum pariunt. At ego cum plurima 
animo perlustrem, duo tantum invenio, duos, inquam, 
casus quibus rex ipso facto ex rege non regem sefacit et 
omni honor "e et dignitate regali atque in subditos potes- 
tate destituit; quorum etiam meminit Winzerus. Ho- 
rum unus est, si regnum disperdat, quemadmodum de 
Neronefertur, quod is nempe senatum populumque Ro- 
manum atque adeo urbem ipsam ferro flammaque vas- 
tare, ac novas sibi sedes qu&rere decrevisset. Et de Ca- 
ligula, quod palam denunciarit se neque civem neque 
principem senatui ampliusfore, inque animo habuerit, 
interempto utriusque ordinis electissimo, quoque Alex- 
andriam commigrare, ac ut populum uno ictu interi- 
meret, unam ei ceroicem optavit. Talia cum rex aliquis 
meditatur et molitur serio, omnem regnandi curam et 
animum ilico abjicit, ac proinde imperium in subditos 
amittit, ut dominus servi pro derelicto habiti, dominium. 

236. 4< ''Alter \casus est, si rex in alicujus clientelam se 
contulitj ac regnum quodliberum a majoribus et populo 
tradition accepit, aliens ditioni mancipavit. Nam tune 
quamvis forte non ea mente id agit populo plane ut in- 
commodet; tamen quia quod pracipuum est regies dig- 
nitatis amisit, ut summus scilicet in regno secundum 
Deum sit, et solo Deo inferior, atque populum etiam 
totum ignorantem vel invitum, cujus libertatem sartam 
et tectam conservare debuit, in alterius gentis ditionem 
etpotestatem dedidit; hoc velut quadam rengi ab aliena- 
tions effecit, ut nee quod ipse in regno imperium habuit 
retineat, nee in eum cut collatum voluit, juris quicquam 
transferat, atque ita eo facto liberum jam et SUCB po- 
testatis populum relinquit, cujus rei exemplum union 
annales Scotici suppeditant" Barclay, Contra Mo- 
narchomackos, i. iii., c. 16. 
Which may be thus Englished: 

237. "What, then, can there no case happen 
wherein the people may of right, and by their 
own authority, help themselves, take arms, and 
set upon their king, imperiously domineering 
over them? None at all whilst he remains a king. 
'Honour the king,' and e he that resists the pow- 
er, resists the ordinance of God,' are Divine ora- 
cles that will never permit it. The people, there- 
fore, can never come by a power over him un- 
less he does something that makes him cease to 
be a king; for then he divests himself of his crown 
and dignity, and returns to the state of a private 
man, and the people become free and superior; 
the power which they had in the interregnum, 
before they crowned h king,, devolving to them 



again. But there are but few miscarriages which 
bring the matter to this state. After considering 
it well on all sides, I can find but two. Two cases 
there are, I say, whereby a king, ipso facto, be- 
comes no king, and loses all power and regal au- 
thority over his people, which are also taken no- 
tice of by Winzerus. The first is, if he endeavour 
to overturn the government that is, if he have 
a purpose and design to ruin the kingdom and 
commonwealth, as it is recorded of Nero that he 
resolved to cut off the senate and people of Rome, 
lay the city waste with fire and sword, and then 
remove to some other place; and of Caligula, 
that he openly declared that he would be no long- 
er a head to the people or senate, and that he 
had it in his thoughts to cut off the worthiest 
men of both ranks, and then retire to Alexan- 
dria; and he wished that the people had but one 
neck that he might dispatch them all at a blow. 
Such designs as these, when any king harbours 
in his thoughts, and seriously promotes, he im- 
mediately gives up all care and thought of the 
commonwealth, and, consequently, forfeits the 
power of governing his subjects, as a master does 
the dominion over his slaves whom he hath 
abandoned. 

238. "The other case is, when a king makes 
himself the dependent of another, and subjects 
his kingdom, which his ancestors left him, and 
the people put free into his hands, to the domin- 
ion of another. For however, perhaps, it may not 
be his intention to prejudice the people, yet be- 
cause he has hereby lost the principal part of re- 
gal dignity viz., to be next and immediately 
under God, supreme hi his kingdom; and also 
because he betrayed or forced his people, whose 
liberty he ought to have carefully preserved, in- 
to the power and dominion of a foreign nation. 
By this, as it were, alienation of his kingdom, he 
himself loses the power he had in it before, with- 
out transferring any the least right to those on 
whom he would have bestowed it; and so by this 
act sets the people free, and leaves them at their 
own disposal. One example of this is to be found 
in the Scotch annals." 

239. In these cases Barclay, the great cham- 
pion of absolute monarchy, is forced to allow that 
a king may be resisted, and ceases to be a king. 
That is in short not to multiply cases in what- 
soever he has no authority, there he is no king, 
and may be resisted: for wheresoever the author- 
ity ceases, the king ceases too, and becomes like 
other men who have no authority. And these two 
cases that he instances differ little from those 
above mentioned, to be destructive to govern- 
ments, only that he has omitted the principle 



CONCERNING CIVIL GOVERNMENT 



81 



from which his doctrine flows, and that is the 
breach of trust in not preserving the form of gov- 
ernment agreed on, and in not intending the end 
of government itself, which is the public good 
and preservation of property. When a king has 
dethroned himself, and put himself in a state of 
war with his people, what shall hinder them from 
prosecuting him who is no king, as they would 
any other man, who has put himself into a state 
of war with them, Barclay, and those of his opin- 
ion, would do well to tell us. Bilson, a bishop 
of our Church, and a great stickler for the pow- 
er and prerogative of princes, does, if I mistake 
not, in his treatise of "Christian Subjection," ac- 
knowledge that princes may forfeit their power 
and their title to the obedience of their subjects; 
and if there needed authority in a case where 
reason is so plain, I could send my reader to 
Bracton, Fortescue, and the author of the "Mir- 
ror," and others, writers that cannot be sus- 
pected to be ignorant of our government, or en- 
emies to it. But I thought Hooker alone might 
be enough to satisfy those men who, relying on 
him for their ecclesiastical polity, are by a strange 
fate carried to deny those principles upon which 
he builds it. Whether they are herein made the 
tools of cunninger workmen, to pull down their 
own fabric, they were best look. This I am sure, 
their civil policy is so new, so dangerous, and so 
destructive to both rulers and people, that as for- 
mer ages never could bear the broaching of it, 
so it may be hoped those to come, redeemed 
from the impositions of these Egyptian under- 
taskmasters, will abhor the memory of such ser- 
vile flatterers, who, whilst it seemed to serve their 
turn, resolved all government into absolute tyr- 
anny, and would have all men born to what their 
mean souls fitted them slavery. 

240. Here it is like the common question will 
be made: Who shall be judge whether the prince 
or legislative act contrary to their trust? This, 
perhaps, ill-affected and factious men may spread 
amongst the people, when the prince only makes 
use of his due prerogative. To this I reply, The 
people shall be judge; for who shall be judge 
whether his trustee or deputy acts well and ac- 
cording to the trust reposed in him, but he who 
deputes him and must, by having deputed him, 
have still a power to discard him when he fails 
in his trust? If this be reasonable in particular 
cases of private men, why should it be otherwise 
in that of the greatest moment, where the wel- 
fare of millions is concerned and also where the 
evil, if not prevented, is greater, and the redress 
very difficult, dear, and dangerous? 

241. But, farther, this question. Who shall be 



judge? cannot mean that there is no judge at all. 
For where there is no judicature on earth to de- 
cide controversies amongst men, God in heaven 
is judge. He alone, it is true, is judge of the right. 
But every man is judge for himself, as in all other 
cases so in this, whether another hath put him- 
self into a state of war with him, and whether he 
should appeal to the supreme Judge, as Jephtha 
did. 

242. If a controversy arise betwixt a prince 
and some of the people in a matter where the 
law is silent or doubtful, and the thing be of great 
consequence, I should think the proper umpire 
in such a case should be the body of the people. 
For in such cases where the prince hath a trust 
reposed in him, and is dispensed from the com- 
mon, ordinary rules of the law, there, if any men 
find themselves aggrieved, and think the prince 
acts contrary to, or beyond that trust, who so 
proper to judge as the body of the people (who at 
first lodged that trust in him) how far they meant 
it should extend? But if the prince, or whoever 
they be in the administration, decline that way 
of determination, the appeal then lies nowhere 
but to Heaven. Force between either persons 
who have no known superior on earth or, which 
permits no appeal to a judge on earth, being 
properly a state of war, wherein the appeal lies 
only to Heaven ; and in that state the injured party 
must judge for himself when he will think fit to 
make use of that appeal and put himself upon it 

243. To conclude. The power that every indi- 
vidual gave the society when he entered into it 
can never revert to the individuals again, as long 
as the society lasts, but will always remain in the 
community; because without this there can be no 
community no commonwealth, which is con- 
trary to the original agreement; so also when 
the society hath placed the legislative in any as- 
sembly of men, to continue in them and their 
successors, with direction and authority for pro- 
viding such successors, the legislative can never 
revert to the people whilst that government lasts- 
because, having provided a legislative with pow- 
er to continue for ever, they have given up their 
political power to the legislative, and cannot re- 
sume it. But if they have set limits to the dura- 
tion of their legislative, and made this supreme 
power in any person or assembly only tempora- 
ry; or else when, by the miscarriages of those in 
authority, it is forfeited; upon the forfeiture of 
their rulers, or at the determination of the time 
set, it reverts to the society, and the people have 
a right to act as supreme, and continue the legis- 
lative in themselves or place it in a new form, or 
new hands, as they think good. 



CONTENTS: 
CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



DEDICATION 85 

EPISTLE TO THE READER 87 

INTRODUCTION 93 

BOOK I. Neither Principles nor 

Ideas are Innate 

I. No Innate Speculative Principles 95 

n. No Innate Practical Principles 103 

m. Other considerations concerning Innate Princi- 
ples, both Speculative and Practical 1 1 2 

BOOK II. Of Ideas 

I. Of Ideas in general, and their Original 1 2 1 
n. Of Simple Ideas 1 2 7 

m. Of Simple Ideas of Sense 128 

rv. Idea of Solidity 129 

v. Of Simple Ideas of Divers Senses 131 

VI. Of Simple Ideas of Reflection 131 

vu. Of Simple Ideas of both Sensation and 

Reflection 131 

vm. Some further considerations concerning 

our Simple Ideas of Sensation 133 

IX. Of Perception 138 

x. Of Retention 141 

xi. Of Discerning, and other operations of 

the Mind 143 

xn. Of Complex Ideas 147 

xm. Complex Ideas of Simple Modes: and 
First^ of the Simple Modes of the Idea of 
Space 148 

xrv. Idea of Duration and its Simple Modes 155 
xv. Ideas of Duration and Expansion, con- 
sidered together 162 
xvi. Idea of Number 165 
xvn. Of Infinity 167 
xvra. Other Simple Modes 174 
xix. Of the Modes of Thinking 1 75 
xx. Of Modes of Pleasure and Pain 1 76 
xxi. Of Power 178 
xxn. Of Mixed Modes 200 
xxm. Of our Complex Ideas of Substances 204 
xxrv. Of Collective Ideas of Substances 2 1 4 
xxv. Of Ideas of Relation 2 1 4 
xxvi. Of Cause and Effect, and other Relations 2 1 7 
xxvn. Of Identity and Diversity 218 
XXVHL Of Other Relations 228 
xxix. Of Clear and Obscure, Distinct and Con- 
fused Ideas 233 



xxx. Of Real and Fantastical Ideas 238 

xxxi. Of Adequate and Inadequate Ideas 239 

xxxii. Of True and False Ideas 243 

xxxm. Of the Association of Ideas 248 

BOOK III. Of Words 

I. Of Words or Language in General 25 1 
n. Of the Signification of Words 252 
ra. Of General Terms 254 
iv. Of the Names of Simple Ideas 260 
v. Of the Names of Mixed Modes and Rela- 
tions 263 
vi. Of the Names of Substances 268 
vn. Of Particles 283 
vin. Of Abstract and Concrete Terms 284 
ix. Of the Imperfection of Words 285 
x. Of the Abuse of Words 291 
xi. Of the Remedies of the foregoing Imper- 
fections and Abuses of Words 300 

BOOK IV. Of Knowledge 

and Probability 

I. Of Knowledge in General 307 

n. Of the Degrees of our Knowledge 309 

m. Of the Extent of Human Knowledge 313 

rv. Of the Reality of Knowledge 323 

v. Of Truth in General 329 
vi. Of Universal Propositions: their Truth 

and Certainty 33 * 

vn. Of Maxims 337 

vm. Of Trifling Propositions 345 

rx. Of our Threefold Knowledge of Existence 349 

x. Of our Knowledge of the Existence of a 

God 349 
xi. Of our Knowledge of the Existence of 

Other Things 354 

xn. Of the Improvement of our Knowledge 358 
xm. Some Further Considerations Concerning our 

Knowledge 3^3 

xrv. Of Judgment 364 

xv. Of Probability 365 

xvi. Of the Degrees of Assent 366 

xvn. Of Reason 37 J 

xvm. Of Faith and Reason, and their Distinct 

Provinces 3& 

Xix. Of Enthusiasm 384 

xx. Of Wrong Assent, or Error 388 

xxi. Of the Division of the Sciences 394 



TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE 
THOMAS, EARL OF PEMBROKE AND MONTGOMERY, 

BARON HERBERT OF CARDIFF, 

LORD ROSS, OF KENDAL, PAR, FITZHUGH, MARMION, ST. QUINTIN, AND SHURLAND; 

LORD PRESIDENT OF HIS MAJESTY'S MOST HONOURABLE PRIVY COUNCIL; AND 

LORD LIEUTENANT OF THE COUNTY OF WILTS, AND OF SOUTH WALES 



MY LORD, 

THIS Treatise, which is grown up under your 
lordship's eye, and has ventured into the world 
by your order, does now, by a natural kind of 
right, come to your lordship for that protection 
which you several years since promised it. It is 
not that I think any name, how great soever, set 
at the beginning of a book, will be able to cover 
the faults that are to be found in it. Things in 
print must stand and fall by their own worth, or 
the reader's fancy. But there being nothing more 
to be desired for truth than a fair unprejudiced 
hearing, nobody is more likely to procure me 
that than your lordship, who are allowed to have 
got so intimate an acquaintance with her, in her 
more retired recesses. Your lordship is known to 
have so far advanced your speculations in the 
most abstract and general knowledge of things, 
beyond the ordinary reach or common methods, 
that your allowance and approbation of the de- 
sign of this Treatise will at least preserve it from 
being condemned without reading, and will pre- 
vail to have those parts a little weighted, which 
might otherwise perhaps be thought to deserve 
no consideration, for being somewhat out of the 
common road. The imputation of Novelty is a 
terrible charge amongst those who judge of men's 
heads, as they do of their perukes, by the fash- 
ion, and can allow none to be right but the re- 
ceived doctrines. Truth scarce ever yet carried 
it by vote anywhere at its first appearance: new 
opinions are always suspected, and usually op- 
posed, without any other reason but because 
they are not already common. But truth, like 
gold, is not the less so for being newly brought 
out of the mine. It is trial and examination must 
give it price, and not any antique fashion; and 
though it be not yet current by the public stamp, 
yet it may, for all that, be as old as nature, and 
is certainly not the less genuine. Your lordship 
can give great and convincing instances of this, 



whenever you please to oblige the public with 
some of those large and comprehensive discov- 
eries you have made of truths hitherto unknown, 
unless to some few, from whom your lordship 
has been pleased not wholly to conceal them. 
This alone were a sufficient reason, were there 
no other, why I should dedicate this Essay to your 
lordship; and its having some little correspond- 
ence with some parts of that nobler and vast sys- 
tem of the sciences your lordship has made so 
new, exact, and instructive a draught of, I think 
it glory enough, if your lordship permit me to 
boast, that here and there I have fallen into some 
thoughts not wholly different from yours. If your 
lordship think fit that, by your encouragement, 
this should appear in the world, I hope it may 
be a reason, some time or other, to lead your 
lordship further; and you will allow me to say, 
that you here give the world an earnest of some- 
thing that, if they can bear with this, will be tru- 
ly worth their expectation. This, my lord, shows 
what a present I here make to your lordship; 
just such as the poor man does to his rich and 
great neighbour, by whom the basket of flowers 
or fruit is not ill taken, though he has more plenty 
of his own growth, and in much greater perfec- 
tion. Worthless things receive a value when they 
are made the offerings of respect, esteem, and 
gratitude: these you have given me so mighty 
and peculiar reasons to have, in the highest de- 
gree, for your lordship, that if they can add a 
price to what they go along with, proportionable 
to their own greatness, I can with confidence 
brag, I here make your lordship the richest pres- 
ent you ever received. This I am sure, I am un- 
der the greatest obligations to seek all occasions 
to acknowledge a long train of favours I have re- 
ceived from your lordship; favours, though great 
and important in themselves, yet made much 
more so by the forwardness, concern, and kind- 



86 



JOHN LOCKE 



ness, and other obliging circumstances, that nev- 
er failed to accompany them. To all this you are 
pleased to add that which gives yet more weight 
and relish to all the rest: you vouchsafe to con- 
tinue me in some degrees of your esteem, and 
allow me a place in your good thoughts, I had 
almost said friendship. This, my lord, your words 
and actions so constantly show on all occasions, 
even to others when I am absent, that it is not 
vanity in me to mention what everybody knows: 
but it would be want of good manners not to 
acknowledge what so many are witnesses of, and 
every day tell me I am indebted to your lord- 
ship for. I wish they could as easily assist my 



gratitude, as they convince me of the great and 
growing engagements it has to your lordship. 
This I am sure, I should write of the Understand- 
ing without having any, if I were not extremely 
sensible of them, and did not lay hold on this 
opportunity to testify to the world how much I 
am obliged to be, and how much I am, 

MY LORD, 

Your Lordship's most humble and most obe- 
dient servant, 

JOHN LOCKE 

Dorset Court, 
sflh of May^ 1689 



EPISTLE TO THE READER 



READER, 

I HAVE put into thy hands what has been the 
diversion of some of my idle and heavy hours. If 
it has the good luck to prove so of any of thine, 
and thou hast but half so much pleasure in read- 
ing as I had in writing it, thou wilt as little think 
thy money, as I do my pains, ill bestowed. Mis- 
take not this for a commendation of my work; 
nor conclude, because I was pleased with the 
doing of it, that therefore I am fondly taken with 
it now it is done. He that hawks at larks and 
sparrows has no less sport, though a much less 
considerable quarry, than he that flies at nobler 
game: and he is little acquainted with the sub- 
ject of this treatise the UNDERSTANDING who 
does not know that, as it is the most elevated 
faculty of the soul, so it is employed with a greater 
and more constant delight than any of the other. 
Its searches after truth are a sort of hawking and 
hunting, wherein the very pursuit makes a great 
part of the pleasure. 1 Every step the mind takes 
in its progress towards Knowledge makes some 
discovery, which is not only new, but the best 
too, for the time at least. 

For the understanding, like the eye, judging 
of objects only by its own sight, cannot but be 
pleased with what it discovers, having less regret 
for what has escaped it, because it is unknown. 
Thus he who has raised himself above the alms- 
basket, and, not content to live lazily on scraps 
of begged opinions, sets his own thoughts on 
work, to find and follow truth, will (whatever he 
lights on) not miss the hunter's satisfaction; every 
moment of his pursuit will reward his pains with 
some delight; and he will have reason to think 
his time not ill spent, even when he cannot much 
boast of any great acquisition. 

This, Reader, is the entertainment of those 
who let loose their own thoughts, and follow 
them in writing; which thou oughtest not to en- 
vy them, since they afford thee an opportunity 
of the like diversion, if thou wilt make use of thy 
own thoughts in reading. It is to them, if they 
are thy own, that I refer myself: but if they are 
taken upon trust from others, it is no great mat- 
ter what they are; they are not following truth, 

1 QF. Pasca!,Pw&f" We never look for the truth 
of things but for tha vanity of knowledge.' 1 



but some meaner consideration; and it is not 
worth while to be concerned what he says or 
thinks, who says or thinks only as he is directed 
by another. 2 If thou judgest for thyself I know 
thou wilt judge candidly, and then I shall not 
be harmed or offended, whatever be thy cen- 
sure. For though it be certain that there is noth- 
ing in this Treatise of the truth whereof I am not 
fully persuaded, yet I consider myself as liable 
to mistakes as I can think thee, and know that 
this book must stand or fall with thee, not by any 
opinion I have of it, but thy own. If thou findest 
little in it new or instructive to thee, thou art not 
to blame me for it. It was not meant for those 
that had already mastered this subject, and made 
a thorough acquaintance with their own under- 
standings; but for my own information, and the 
satisfaction of a few friends, who acknowledged 
themselves not to have sufficiently considered it. 

Were it fit to trouble thee with the history of 
this Essay, I should tell thee, that five or six friends 
meeting at my chamber, and discoursing on a 
subject very remote from this, found themselves 
quickly at a stand, by the difficulties that rose on 
every side. After we had awhile puzzled our- 
selves, without coming any nearer a resolution 
of those doubts which perplexed us, it came into 
my thoughts that we took a wrong course; and 
that before we set ourselves upon inquiries of 
that nature, it was necessary to examine our own 
abilities, and see what objects our understandings 
were, or were not, fitted to deal with. This I pro- 
posed to the company, who all readily assented; 
and thereupon it was agreed that this should be 
our first inquiry. Some hasty and undigested 
thoughts, on a subject I had never before con- 
sidered, which I set down against our next meet- 
ing, gave the first entrance into this Discourse; 
which having been thus begun by chance, was 
continued by intreaty ; written by incoherent par- 
cels; and after long intervals of neglect, resumed 
again, as my humour or occasions permitted; 
and at last, in a retirement where an attendance 
on my health gave me leisure, it was brought in- 
to that order thou now seest it. 

This discontinued way of writing may have oc- 
casioned, besides others, two contrary faults, viz., 

*Cf.Bk, IV. ch. xix. | i. 



88 

that too little and too much may be said in it. If 
thou findest anything wanting, I shall be glad 
that what I have written gives thee any desire 
that I should have gone further. If it seems too 
much to thee, thou must blame the subject; for 
when I put pen to paper, I thought all I should 
have to say on this matter would have been con- 
tained in one sheet of paper; but the further I 
went the larger prospect I had; new discoveries 
led me still on, and so it grew insensibly to the 
bulk it now appears in. I will not deny, but pos- 
sibly it might be reduced to a narrower compass 
than it is, and that some parts of it might be con- 
tracted, the way it has been writ in, by catches, 
and many long intervals of interruption, being 
apt to cause some repetitions. But to confess the 
truth, I am now too lazy, or too busy, to make 
it shorter. 

I am not ignorant how little I herein consult 
my own reputation, when I knowingly let it go 
with a fault, so apt to disgust the most judicious, 
who are always the nicest readers. But they who 
know sloth is apt to content itself with any ex- 
cuse, will pardon me if mine has prevailed on 
me, where I think I have a very good one. I will 
not therefore allege in my defence, that the same 
notion, having different respects, may be con- 
venient or necessary to prove or illustrate sev- 
eral parts of the same discourse, and that so it 
has happened in many parts of this: but waiving 
that, I shall frankly avow that I have sometimes 
dwelt long upon the same argument, and ex- 
pressed it different ways, with a quite different 
design. I pretend not to publish this Essay for the 
information of men of large thoughts and quick 
apprehensions; to such masters of knowledge I 
profess myself a scholar, and therefore warn them 
beforehand not to expect anything here, but 
what, being spun out of my own coarse thoughts, 
is fitted to men of my own size, to whom, per- 
haps, it will not be unacceptable that I have tak- 
en some pains to make plain and familiar to their 
thoughts some truths which established preju- 
dice, or the abstractedness of the ideas them- 
selves, might render difficult. Some objects had 
need be turned on every side; and when the no- 
tion is new, as I confess some of these are to me; 
or out of the ordinary road a as I suspect they will 
appear to others, it is not one simple view of it 
that will gain it admittance into every under- 
standing, or fix it there with a clear and lasting 
impression. There are few, I believe, who have 
not observed in themselves or others, that what 
in one way of proposing was very obscure, an- 
other way of expressing it has made very clear 
anc} intelligible; though stewards tfee mind 



JOHN LOCKE 



found little difference in the phrases, and won- 
dered why one failed to be understood more than 
the other. But everything does not hit alike up- 
on every man's imagination. We have our un- 
derstandings no less different than our palates; 
and he that thinks the same truth shall be equal- 
ly relished by every one in the same dress, may 
as well hope to feast every one with the same sort 
of cookery: the meat may be the same, and the 
nourishment good, yet every one not be able to 
receive it with that seasoning; and it must be 
dressed another way, if you will have it go down 
with some, even of strong constitutions. The truth 
is, those who advised me to publish it, advised 
me, for this reason, to publish it as it is: and since 
I have been brought to let it go abroad, I desire 
it should be understood by whoever gives him- 
self the pains to read it. I have so little affection 
to be in print, that if I were not flattered this 
Essay might be of some use to others, as I think 
it has been to me, I should have confined it to 
the view of some friends, who gave the first oc- 
casion to it. My appearing therefore in print be- 
ing on purpose to be as useful as I may, I think 
it necessary to make what I have to say as easy 
and intelligible to all sorts of readers as I can. 1 
And I had much rather the speculative and 
quick-sighted should complain of my being in 
some parts tedious, than that any one, not ac- 
customed to abstract speculations, or prepos- 
sessed with different notions, should mistake or 
not comprehend my meaning. 

It will possibly be censured as a great piece of 
vanity or insolence in me, to pretend to instruct 
this our knowing age; it amounting to little less, 
when I own, that I publish this Essay with hopes 
it may be useful to others. But, if it may be per- 
mitted to speak freely of those who with a feigned 
modesty condemn as useless what they them- 
selves write, methinks it savours much more of 
vanity or insolence to publish a book for any oth- 
er end; and he fails very much of that respect he 
owes the public, who prints, and consequently 
expects men should read, that wherein he in- 
tends not they should meet with anything of use 
to themselves or others: and should nothing else 
be found allowable in this Treatise, yet my de- 
sign will not cease to be so; and the goodness of 
my intention ought to be some excuse for the 
worthlessness of my present. It is that chiefly 
which secures me from the fear of censure, which 
I expect not to escape more than better writers. 
Men's principles, notions, and relishes are so dif- 
ferent, that it is hard to find a book which pleas- 
es or displeases all men. I acknowledge the age 

1 Compare Locke's letter, 21 March, 1704. 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



we live in is not the least knowing, and therefore 
not the most easy to be satisfied. If I have not 
the good luck to please, yet nobody ought to be 
offended with me. I plainly tell all my readers, 
except half a dozen, this Treatise was not at first 
intended for them; and therefore they need not 
be at the trouble to be of that number. But yet 
if any one thinks fit to be angry and rail at it, he 
may do it securely, for I shall find some better 
way of spending my time than in such kind of 
conversation. I shall always have the satisfaction 
to have aimed sincerely at truth and usefulness, 
though in one of the meanest ways. The common- 
wealth of learning is not at this time without 
master-builders, whose mighty designs, in ad- 
vancing the sciences, will leave lasting monu- 
ments to the admiration of posterity: but every 
one must not hope to be a Boyle or a Sydenham; 
and in an age that produces such masters as the 
great Huygenius and the incomparable Mr. 
Newton, with some others of that strain, it is am- 
bition enough to be employed as an under- 
labourer in clearing the ground a little, and re- 
moving some of the rubbish that lies in the way 
to knowledge; which certainly had been very 
much more advanced in the world, if the endeav- 
ours of ingenious and industrious men had not 
been much cumbered with the learned but frivo- 
lous use of uncouth, affected, or unintelligible 
terms, introduced into the sciences, and there 
made an art of, to that degree that Philosophy, 
which is nothing but the true knowledge of 
things, 1 was thought unfit or incapable to be 
brought into well-bred company and polite con- 
versation. Vague and insignificant forms of 
speech, and abuse of language, have so long 
passed for mysteries of science; and hard and 
misapplied words, with little or no meaning, 
have, by prescription, such a right to be mistak- 
en for deep learning and height of speculation, 
that it will not be easy to persuade either those 
who speak or those who hear them, that they are 
but the covers of ignorance, and hindrance of 
true knowledge. To break in upon the sanctuary 
of vanity and ignorance will be, I suppose, some 
service to human understanding; though so few 
are apt to think they deceive or are deceived in 
the use of words; or that the language of the sect 
they are of has any faults in it which ought to be 
examined or corrected, that I hope I shall be par- 
doned if I have in the Third Book dwelt long on 
this subject, and endeavoured to make it so plain, 
that neither the inveterateness of the mischief, 
nor the prevalency of the fashion, shall be any 

1 Cf. Berkeley, Principles of Human. Knowledge > In- 
trod. Sect. i. 



excuse for those who will not take care about the 
meaning of their own words, and will not suffer 
the significancy of their expressions to be inquired 
into. 2 

I have been told that a short Epitome of this 
Treatise, which was printed in 1 688, was by some 
condemned without reading, because innate ideas 
were denied in it; they too hastily concluding, 
that if innate ideas were not supposed, there 
would be little left either of the notion or proof 
of spirits. If any one take the like offence at the 
entrance of this Treatise, I shall desire him to 
read it through; and then I hope he will be con- 
vinced, that the taking away false foundations 
is not to the prejudice but advantage of truth, 
which is never injured or endangered so much 
as when mixed with, or built on, falsehood. 
In the Second Edition I added as followeth: 
The bookseller will not forgive me if I say noth- 
ing of this New Edition, which he has promised, 
oy the correctness of it, shall make amends for 
the many faults committed in the former. He de- 
sires too, that it should be known that it has one 
whole new chapter concerning Identity? and 
many additions and amendments in other plac- 
es. These I must inform my reader are not all new 
matter, but most of them either further confirma- 
tion of what I had said, or explications, to pre- 
vent others being mistaken hi the sense of what 
was formerly printed, and not any variation in 
me from it. 

1 must only except the alterations I have made 
in Book II. chap. xxi. 

What I had there written concerning Liberty 
and the Will, I thought deserved as accurate a 
view as I am capable of; those subjects having in 
all ages exercised the learned part of the world 
with questions and difficulties, that have not a 
little perplexed morality and divinity, those parts 
of knowledge that men are most concerned to be 
clear in. Upon a closer inspection into the work- 
ing of men's minds, and a stricter examination 
of those motives and views they are turned by, 
I have found reason somewhat to alter the 
thoughts I formerly had concerning that which 
gives the last determination to the Will in all 
voluntary actions. This I cannot forbear to ac- 
knowledge to the world with as much freedom 
and readiness as I at first published what then 
seemed to me to be right; thinking myself more 
concerned to quit and renounce any opinion 
of my own, than oppose that of another, when 
truth appears against it. For it is truth alone I 

2 Cf. Berkeley on the abuse of words, Principles^ 
Introd. Sect. 18-25. 

*Bk. II. ch. xxvii. 



JOHN LOCKE 



seek, 1 and that will always be welcome to me, 
when or from whencesoever it comes. 

But what forwardness soever I have to resign 
any opinion I have, or to recede from anything 
I have writ, upon the first evidence of any error 
in it; yet this I must own, that I have not had the 
good luck to receive any light from those excep- 
tions I have met with in print against any part 
of my book, nor have, from anything that has 
been urged against it, found reason to alter my 
sense in any of the points that have been ques- 
tioned. Whether the subject I have in hand re- 
quires often more thought and attention than 
cursory readers, at least such as are prepossessed, 
are willing to allow; or whether any obscurity 
in my expressions casts a cloud over it, and these 
notions are made difficult to others 3 apprehen- 
sions in my way of treating them; so it is, that 
my meaning, I find s is often mistaken, and I have 
not the good luck to be everywhere rightly un- 
derstood. 

Of this the ingenious author of the Discourse 
Concerning the Nature of Man has given me a late 
instance, to mention no other. For the civility of 
his expressions, and the candour that belongs to 
his order, forbid me to think that he would have 
closed his Preface with an insinuation, as if in 
what I had said. Book II. ch. xxvii, concerning 
the third rule which men refer their actions to, 
I went about to make virtue vice and vice virtue 
unless he had mistaken my meaning; which he 
could not have done if he had given himself the 
trouble to consider what the argument was I was 
then upon, and what was the chief design of that 
chapter, plainly enough set down in the fourth 
section and those following. For I was there not 
laying down moral rules, but showing the origi- 
nal and nature of moral ideas, and enumerating 
the rules men make use of in moral relations, 
whether these rules were true or false: and pur- 
suant thereto I tell what is everywhere called vir- 
tue and vice; which "alters not the nature of 
things/* though men generally do judge of and 
denominate their actions according to the esteem 
and fashion of the place and sect they are of. 

If he had been at the pains to reflect on what 
I had said, Bk, I. ch. iL sect. 18, and Bk. II. 
ch, xxviiL sects. 13, 14, 15 and 20, he would have 
known what I think of the eternal and unalter- 
able nature of right and wrong, and what I call 
virtue and vice. And if fee had observed that in 
the place tie quotes I only report as a matter of 
fact wjiat o thtr s call virtue artd vice, $ie would act 
have found it liable to any gjreat exception. For 
I think I ai^ not mttcli out m i|ayiig that on# 

i$ee Bk. I. <&, lit 23; B^ 



the rules made use of in the world for a ground 
or measure of a moral relation is that esteem 
and reputation which several sorts of actions find 
variously in the several societies of men, accord- 
ing to which they are there called virtues or 
vices. And whatever authority the learned Mr. 
Lowde places in his Old English Dictionary, I dare- 
say it nowhere tells him (if I should appeal to it) 
that the same action is not in credit, called and 
counted a virtue, in one place, which, being in 
disrepute, passes for and under the name of vice 
in another.The taking notice that men bestow the 
names of "virtue" and "vice" according to this 
rule-of Reputation is all I have done, or can be 
laid to my charge to have done, towards the mak- 
ing vice virtue or virtue vice. But the good man 
does well, and as becomes his calling, to be watch- 
ful in such points, and to take the alarm even at 
expressions, which, standing alone by them- 
selves, might sound ill and be suspected. 

'Tis to this zeal, allowable in his function, that 
I forgive his citing as he does these words of mine 
(ch.xxviii. sect. 1 1): "Even the exhortations of in- 
spired teachers have not feared to appeal to com- 
mon repute, Philip, iv. 8"; without taking notice 
of those immediately preceding, which introduce 
them, and run thus: "Whereby even in the cor- 
ruption of manners, the true boundaries of the 
law of nature, which ought to be the rule of vir- 
tue and vice, were pretty well preserved. So that 
even the exhortations of inspired teachers," &c* 
By which words, and the rest of that section, it 
is plain that I brought that passage of St. Paul, 
not to prove that the general measure of what 
men called virtue and vice throughout the world 
was, the reputation and fashion of each partic- 
ular society within itself; but to show that, though 
it were so, yet, for reasons I there give, men, in 
that way of denominating their actions, did not 
for the most part much stray from the Law of 
Nature; which is that standing and unalterable 
rule by which they ought to judge of the moral 
rectitude and gravity of their actions, and accord- 
ingly denominate them virtues or vices. Had Mr. 
Lowde considered this, he would have found it 
little to his purpose to have quoted this passage 
in a sense I used it not; and would I imagine 
have spared the application he subjoins to it, as 
not very necessary. But I hope this Second Edi- 
tion will give him satisfaction on the point, and 
that this matter is now so expressed as to show 
him there was no cause for scruple. 
. Though I am forced to differ from him in these 
apprehensions he has expressed? i&tke latter end 
of Jiis grefac^ w^cprning^hat^I &ad$ai<J ^bout 
virtue and vice, yet we are better agreed tfoafo he 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



thinks in what he says in his third chapter (p. 78) 
concerning "natural inscription and innate no- 
tions." I shall not deny him the privilege he claims 
(p. 52), to state the question as he pleases, es- 
pecially when he states it so as to leave nothing 
in it contrary to what I have said. For, accord- 
ing to him, "innate notions, being conditional 
things, depending upon the concurrence of sev- 
eral other circumstances in order to the soul's 
exerting them," all that he says for "innate, im- 
printed, impressed notions" (for of innate ideashe 
says nothing at all), amounts at last only to this 
that there are certain propositions which, though 
the soul from the beginning, or when a man is 
born, does not know, yet "by assistance from the 
outward senses, and the help of some previous 
cultivation," it may afterwards come certainly to 
know the truth of; which is no more than what 
I have affirmed in my First Book. For I suppose 
by the "soul's exerting them," he means its be- 
ginning to know them; or else the soul's "exert- 
ing of notions" will be to me a very unintelligible 
expression; and I think at best is a very unfit one 
in this, it misleading men's thoughts by an in- 
sinuation, as if these notions were in the mind be- 
fore the "soul exerts them," i.e. before they are 
known; whereas truly before they are known, 
there is nothing of them in the mind but a ca- 
pacity to know them, when the "concurrence of 
those circumstances," which this ingenious au- 
thor thinks necessary "in order to the soul's ex- 
erting them, 9 ' brings them into our knowledge. 

P. 52 1 find him express it thus: "These natural 
notions are not so imprinted upon the soul as that 
they naturally and necessarily exert themselves 
(even in children and idiots) without any assist- 
ance from the outward senses, or without the help 
of some previous cultivation." Here, he says, they 
"exert themselves," asp. 78, that the "soul exerts 
them." When he has explained to himself or oth- 
ers what he means by "the soul's exerting innate 
notions,"ortheir"exerting themselves" ;and what 
that "previous cultivation and circumstances" in 
order to their being exerted are he will I sup- 
pose find there is so little of controversy between 
him and me on the point, bating that he calls 
that "exerting of notions" which I in a more vul- 
gar style call "knowing," that I have reason to 
think he brought in my name on this occasion 
only out of the pleasure he has to speak civilly of 
me; which I must gratefully acknowledge he has 
done everywhere he mentions me, not without 
conferring on me, as some others have done, a 
title I have no right to. 

There are so many instances of this, that I 
think it justice to my reader and myself to con- 



clude, that either my book is plainly enough 
written to be rightly understood by those who 
peruse it with that attention and indifferency, 
which every one who will give himself the pains 
to read ought to employ in reading; or else that 
I have written mine so obscurely that it is in vain 
to go about to mend it. Whichever of these be 
the truth, it is myself only am affected thereby; 
and therefore I shall be far from troubling my 
reader with what I think might be said in an- 
swer to those several objections I have met with, 
to passages here and there of my book; since I 
persuade myself that he who thinks them of mo- 
ment enough to be concerned whether they are 
true or false, will be able to see that what is said 
is either not well founded, or else not contrary 
to my doctrine, when I and my opposer come 
both to be well understood. 

If any other authors, careful that none of their 
good thoughts should be lost, have published 
their censures of my Essay , with this honour done 
to it, that they will not suffer it to be an essay, I 
leave it to the public to value the obligation they 
have to their critical pens, and shall not waste 
my reader's time in so idle or ill-natured an em- 
ployment of mine, as to lessen the satisfaction any 
one has in himself, or gives to others, in so hasty 
a confutation of what I have written. 

The booksellers preparing for the Fourth Edi- 
tion of my Essay, gave me notice of it, that I might, 
if I had leisure, make any additions or alterations 
I should think fit Whereupon I thought it con- 
venient to advertise the reader, that besides sev- 
eral corrections I had made here and there, there 
was one alteration which it was necessary to men- 
tion, because it ran through the whole book, and 
is of consequence to be rightly understood. What 
I thereupon said was this: 

Clear and distinct ideas are terms which, though 
familiar and frequent in men's mouths, I have 
reason to think every one who uses does not per- 
fectly understand. And possibly 'tis but here and 
there one who gives himself the trouble to con- 
sider them so far as to know what he himself or 
others precisely mean by them. I have therefore 
in most places chose to put determinate or deter- 
mined, instead of clear and distinct, as more likely 
to direct men's thoughts to my meaning in this 
matter. By those denominations, I mean some 
object in the mind, and consequently deter- 
mined, Le. such as it is there seen and perceived 
to be. This, I think, may fitly be called a deter- 
minate or determined idea, when such as it is at 
any time objectively in the mind, and so deter- 
mined there, it is annexed, and without varia- 
tion determined, to a name or articulate sound, 



92 

which is to be steadily the sign of that very same 
object of the mind, or determinate idea. 

To explain this a little more particularly. By 
determinate, when applied to a simple idea, I mean 
that simple appearance which the mind has in 
its view, or perceives in itself, when that idea is 
said to be in it: by determined, when applied to a 
complex idea, I mean such an one as consists of 
a determinate number of certain simple or less 
complex ideas, joined in such a proportion and 
situation as the mind has before its view, and sees 
in itself, when that idea is present in it, or should 
be present in it, when a man gives a name to it. 
I say should be, because it is not every one, nor 
perhaps any one, who is so careful of his language 
as to use no word till he views in his mind the 
precise determined idea which he resolves to 
make it the sign of. The want of this is the cause 
of no small obscurity and confusion in men's 
thoughts and discourses. 

I know there are not words enough in any lan- 
guage to answer all the variety of ideas that enter 
into men's discourses and reasonings. But this 
hinders not but that when any one uses any term, 
he may have in his mind a determined idea, which 
he makes it the sign of, and to which he should 
keep it steadily annexed during that present dis- 
course. Where he does not, or cannot do this, he 
in vain pretends to clear or distinct ideas: it is 
plain his are not so; and therefore there can be 
expected nothing but obscurity and confusion, 
where such terms are made use of which have 
not such a precise determination. 

Upon this ground I have thought determined 
ideas a way of speaking less liable to mistakes, 
than clear and distinct: and where men have got 



JOHN LOCKE 



such determined ideas of all that they reason, in- 
quire, or argue about, they will find a great part 
of their doubts and disputes at an end; the great- 
est part of the questions and controversies that 
perplex mankind depending on the doubtful and 
uncertain use of words, or (which is the same) 
indetermined ideas, which they are made to 
stand for. I have made choice of these terms to 
signify, (i) Some immediate object of the mind, 
which it perceives and has before it, distinct from 
the sound it uses as a sign of it. (2) That this 
idea, thus determined, i.e. which the mind has 
in itself, and knows, and sees there, be deter- 
mined without any change to that name, and 
that name determined to that precise idea. If 
men had such determined ideas in their inquir- 
ies and discourses, they would both discern how 
far their own inquiries and discourses went, and 
avoid the greatest part of the disputes and 
wranglings they have with others. 1 

Besides this, the bookseller will think it neces- 
sary I should advertise the reader that there is 
an addition of two chapters wholly new; the one 
of the Association of Ideas, the other of Enthusiasm. 
These, with some other larger additions never 
before printed, he has engaged to print by them- 
selves, after the same manner, and for the same 
purpose, as was done when this Essay had the 
second impression. 

In the Sixth Edition there is very little added 
or altered. The greatest part of what is new is 
contained in the twenty-first chapter of the sec- 
ond book, which any one, if he thinks it worth 
while, may, with a very little labour, transcribe 
into the margin of the former edition. 

1 So in Berkeley's Principles, Introd. 18-25. 



AN ESSAY 
CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



As thou knowest not what is the way of the Spirit, nor how the 
bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou 
knowest not the works of God, who maketh all things. Eccles. 11.5. 

Quam bellum est velle confiteri potius nescire quod nescias, quam ista effuti- 
entem nauseare, atque ipsum sibi displicere. Cicero, de Natur. Dear. I. i. 



INTRODUCTION 



1. An Inquiry into the understanding, pleasant and 
useful. Since it is the understanding that sets man 
above the rest of sensible beings, and gives him 
all the advantage and dominion which he has 
over them; 1 it is certainly a subject, even for its 
nobleness, worth our labour to inquire into. The 
understanding, like the eye, whilst it makes us see 
and perceive all other things, takes no notice of 
itself; and it requires art and pains to set it at a 
distance and make it its own object But what- 
ever be the difficulties that lie in the way of this 
inquiry; whatever it be that keeps us so much in 
the dark to ourselves; sure I am that all the light 
we can let in upon our minds, all the acquaint- 
ance we can make with our own understandings, 
will not only be very pleasant, but bring us great 
advantage, in directing our thoughts in the search 
of other things. 

2. Design. This, therefore, being my purpose 
to inquire into the original, certainty, and ex- 
tent of human knowledge, together with the grounds 
and degrees of belief, opinion, and assent; I shall 
not at present meddle with the physical consid- 
eration of the mind; or trouble myself to exam- 
ine wherein its essence consists; or by what mo- 
tions of our spirits or alterations of our bodies we 
come to have any sensation by our organs, or any 
ideas 2 in our understandings; and whether those 
ideas do in their formation, any or all of them, 
depend on matter or not. These are specula- 
tions which, however curious and entertaining, 
I shall decline, as lying out of my way in the de- 

1 Gf. Bacon, Nomtm Organum, L aph. 3. 
. *GL Bk. II. ch. i. 23, on sensation, and Introd. 
$8, on idea. 



sign I am now upon. It shall suffice to my pres- 
ent purpose, to consider the discerning faculties 
of a man, as they are employed about the ob- 
jects which they have to do with. And I shall 
imagine I have not wholly misemployed myself 
in the thoughts I shall have on this occasion, if, 
in this historical, plain method, I can give any 
account of the ways whereby our understandings 
come to attain those notions of things we have; 3 
and can set down any measures of the certainty 
of our knowledge; 4 or the grounds of those per- 
suasions 5 which are to be found amongst men, 
so various, different, and wholly contradictory; 
and yet asserted somewhere or other with such 
assurance and confidence, that he that shall take 
a view of the opinions of mankind, observe their 
opposition, and at the same time consider the 
fondness and devotion wherewith they are em- 
braced, the resolution and eagerness wherewith 
they are maintained, may perhaps have reason 
to suspect, that either there is no such thing as 
truth at all, or that mankind hath no sufficient 
means to attain a certain knowledge of it. 

3. Method. It is therefore worth while to search 
out the bounds between opinion and knowledge; 
and examine by what measures, in things whereof 
we have no certain knowledge, we ought to reg- 
ulate our assent and moderate our persuasion. 6 
In order whereunto I shall pursue this following 
method: 

First, I shall inquire into the original of those 

'See Bk. II. 

*SeeBk. IV. ch. i-xiii. 

6 See Bk. IV. ch. xiv-xx. 

6 This is the special subject of -Book IV, 



93 



94 



JOHN LOCKE 



ideas, notions, or whatever else you please to call 
them, which a man observes, and is conscious to 
himself he has in his mind; and the ways where- 
by the understanding comes to be furnished 
with them. 1 

Secondly, I shall endeavour to show what 
knowledge the understanding hath by those ideas; 
and the certainty, evidence, and extent of it. 2 

Thirdly, I shall make some inquiry into the 
nature and grounds of faith or opinion: whereby 
I mean that assent which we give to any propo- 
sition as true, of whose truth yet we have no cer- 
tain knowledge. And here we shall have occa- 
sion to examine the reasons and degrees of as- 
sent.* 

4. Useful to know the extent of our comprehension. 
If by this inquiry into the nature of the under- 
standing, I can discover the powers thereof; how 
far they reach; to what things they are in any 
degree proportionate; and where they fail us, I 
suppose it may be of use to prevail with the busy 
mind of man to be more cautious in meddling 
with things exceeding its comprehension; to stop 
when it is at the utmost extent of its tether; and 
to sit down in a quiet ignorance of those things 
which, upon examination, are found to be be- 
yond the reach of our capacities. We should not 
then perhaps be so forward, out of an affectation 
of an universal knowledge, to raise questions, 
and perplex ourselves and others with disputes 
about things to which our understandings are 
not suited; and of which we cannot frame in our 
minds any clear or distinct perceptions, or where- 
of (as it has perhaps too often happened) we 
have not any notions at all. If we can find out 
how far the understanding can extend its view; 
how far it has faculties to attain certainty; and 
in what cases it can only judge and guess, we 
may learn to content ourselves with what is at- 
tainable by us in this state. 

5. Our capacity suited to our state and concerns. For 
though the comprehension of our understand- 
ings comes exceeding short of the vast extent of 
things, yet we shall have cause enough to mag- 
nify the bountiful Author of our being, for that 
propoitiaa and degree of knowledge he has be- 
stowed on us, so far above all the rest of the in- 
habitants of this our mansion. Men have reason 

1 Tbie subject of the Book II, and negatively of 
the 1st. 

The basis and boundary of human "knowl- 
edge,** orabsolute^sitainty, is examined in the first 
thirteen chapters of the Book IV. 

* "Assent," in its degrees of pro|>abillity, from 
inoral certainty down to $&e faintest presumption,* 
is considered In the fo-m^eesl^ ai>d H>iow^jg chap- 



to be well satisfied with what God hath thought 
fit for them, since he hath given them (as St. Pe- 
ter says) Trdvra -rrpos f oirjp nal ebffefieiav, what- 
soever is necessary for the conveniences of life 
and information of virtue; and has put within 
the reach of their discovery, the comfortable pro- 
vision for this life, and the way that leads to a 
better. How short soever their knowledge may 
come of an universal or perfect comprehension 
of whatsoever is, it yet secures their great con- 
cernments, that they have light enough to lead 
them to the knowledge of their Maker, and the 
sight of their own duties. Men may find matter 
sufficient to busy their heads, and employ their 
hands with variety, delight, and satisfaction, if 
they will not boldly quarrel with their own con- 
stitution, and throw away the blessings their 
hands are filled with, because they are not big 
enough to grasp everything. We shall not have 
much reason to complain of the narrowness of 
our minds, if we will but employ them about 
what may be of use to us; for of that they are 
very capable. And it will be an unpardonable, 
as well as childish peevishness, if we undervalue 
the advantages of our knowledge, and neglect 
to improve it to the ends for which it was given 
us, because there are some things that are set out 
of the reach of it. It will be no excuse to an idle 
and untoward servant, who would not attend 
his business by candle light, to plead that he had 
not broad sunshine. The Candle that is set up in 
us shines bright enough for all our purposes. The 
discoveries we can make with this ought to satis- 
fy us; and we shall then use our understandings 
right, when we entertain all objects in that way 
and proportion that they are suited to our facul- 
ties, and upon those grounds they are capable of 
being proposed to us; and not peremptorily or 
intemperately require demonstration, and de- 
mand certainty, where probability only is to be 
had, and which is sufficient to govern all our 
concernments. If we will disbelieve everything, 
because we cannot certainly know all things, we 
shall do mudrwhat as wisely as he who would 
not use his legs, but sit still and perish, because 
he had no wings to fly. . 

6. Knowledge of our capacity a cure of scepticism 
and idleness. When we know our own strength, we 
shall the better know what to undertake with 
hopes of success; and when we have well sur- 
veyed the powers of our own minds, and made 
some estimate what we may expect from them, 
we shall not be inclined either to sit still, and not 
set our thoughts on work at all, in despair of 
knowing anything; nor on the other side, ques- 
tion everything, and disclaim all knowledge, be- 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



95 



cause some things are not to be understood. It is 
of great use to the sailor to know the length of 
his line, though he cannot with it fathom all the 
depths of the ocean. It is well he knows that it is 
long enough to reach the bottom, at such places 
as are necessary to direct his voyage, and cau- 
tion him against running upon shoals that may 
ruin him. Our business here is not to know all 
things, but those which concern our conduct. If 
we can find out those measures, whereby a ra- 
tional creature, put in that state in which man 
is in this world, may and ought to govern his 
opinions, and actions depending thereon, weneed 
not to be troubled that some other things escape 
our knowledge. 

7. Occasion of this essay. This was that which 
gave the first rise to this Essay concerning the 
understanding. For I thought that the first step 
towards satisfying several inquiries the mind of 
man was very apt to run into, was, to take a sur- 
vey of our own understandings, examine our own 
powers, and see to what things they were adap- 
ted. Till that was done I suspected we began at 
the wrong end, and in vain sought for satisfaction 
in a quiet and sure possession of truths that most 
concerned us, whilst we let loose our thoughts 
into the vast ocean of Being; as if all that bound- 
less extent were the natural and undoubted pos- 
session of our understandings, wherein there was 
nothing exempt from its decisions, or that es- 
caped its comprehension. Thus men, extending 
their inquiries beyond their capacities, and let- 
ting their thoughts wander into those depths 
where they can find no sure footing, it is no won- 



der that they raise questions and multiply dis- 
putes, which, never coming to any clear resolu- 
tion, are proper only to continue and increase 
their doubts, and to confirm them at last in per- 
fect scepticism. Whereas, were the capacities of 
our understandings well considered, the extent 
of our knowledge once discovered, and the hori- 
zon found which sets the bounds between the 
enlightened and dark parts of things; between 
what is and what is not comprehensible by us, 
men would perhaps with less scruple acquiesce 
in the avowed ignorance of the one, and em- 
ploy their thoughts and discourse with more ad- 
vantage and satisfaction in the other. 

8. What "Idea" stands for. Thus much I thought 
necessary to say concerning the occasion of this 
Inquiry into human Understanding. But, be- 
fore I proceed on to what I have thought on 
this subject, I must here in the entrance beg par- 
don of my reader for the frequent use of the word 
idea, which he will find in the following treatise. 
It being that term which, I think, serves best to 
stand for whatsoever is the object of the under- 
standing when a man thinks, I have used it to 
express whatever is meant by phantasm, notion, 
species, or whatever it is which the mind can be em- 
ployed about in thinking; and I could not avoid fre- 
quently using it. 1 

I presume it will be easily granted me, that 
there are such ideas in men's minds: every one is 
conscious of them in himself; and men's words 
and actions will satisfy him that they are in others. 

Our first inquiry then shall be, how they 
come into the mind. 



BOOK I. Neither Principles nor Ideas Are Innate 



Chap. I. No Innate Speculative Principles 

i. The way shown how we come by any knowledge, 
sufficient to prove it not innate. It is an established 
opinion amongst some men, 2 that there are in 
the understanding certain innate principles; some 
primary notions, Kowol wouu, characters, as 
it were stamped upon the mind of man; which 
the soul receives in its very first being, and brings 
into the world with it. It would be sufficient to 
convince unprejudiced readers of the falseness 
of this supposition, if I should only show (as I 

1 Gf. Locke's Reply to Stillingfleet, p. 69; also Bk. 
IV, ch. xvii. 8. 

2 Cf. ch. ii. 15. 

Descartes, Meditations m First Philosophy, iii. 
Hume, Enquiry Concerning Human Understand" 
ing, p. 457, fa. i, below. 



hope I shall in the following parts of this Ms- 
course) how men, barely by the use of their nat- 
ural faculties, may attain to all the knowledge 
they have, without the help of any innate im- 
pressions; and may arrive at certainty, without 
any such original notions or principles. For I 
imagine any one will easily grant that it would 
be impertinent to suppose the ideas of colours 
innate in a creature to whom God hath given 
sight, and a power to receive them by the eyes 
from external objects: and no less unreasonable 
would it be to attribute several truths to the im- 
pressions of nature, and innate characters, when 
we may observe in ourselves faculties fit to at- 
tain as easy and certain knowledge of them as if 
they were originally imprinted on the mind. 

But because a man is not permitted without 
censure to follow his own thoughts in the search 



JOHN LOCKE 



BOOK I 



of truth, when they lead him ever so little out of 
the common road, I shall set down the reasons 
that made me doubt of the truth of that opinion, 
as an excuse for my mistake, if I be in one; which 
I leave to be considered by those who, with me, 
dispose themselves to embrace truth wherever 
they find it. 

2 . General assent the great argument. There is noth- 
ing more commonly taken for granted than that 
there are certain principles, both speculative and 
practical, (for they speak of both), universally 
agreed upon by all mankind: which therefore, 
they argue, must needs be the constant impres- 
sions which the souls of men receive in their first 
beings, and which they bring into the world with 
them, as necessarily and really as they do any of 
their inherent faculties. 

3. Universal consent proves nothing innate. This ar- 
gument, drawn from universal consent, has this 
misfortune in it, that if it were true in matter of 
fact, that there were certain truths wherein all 
mankind agreed, it would not prove them in- 
nate, if there can be any other way shown how 
men may come to that universal agreement, in 
the things they do consent in, which I presume 
may be done. 1 

4. " What is, zV and "It is impossible for the same 
thing to be and not to be," not universally assented to. 
But, which is worse, this argument of universal 
consent, which is made use of to prove innate 
principles, seems to me ademonstration that there 
are none such: because there are none to which 
all mankind give an universal assent. I shall be- 
gin with the speculative, and instance in those 
magnified principles of demonstration, "What- 
soever is, is," and "It is impossible for the same 
thing to be and not to be"; which, of all others, 
I thfnfr have the most allowed title to innate. 2 
Tfcese have so settled a reputation of maxims 
universally received, that it will no doubt be 
thought strange if any one should seem to ques- 
tion it. But yet I take liberty to say, that these 
propositions are so far from having an universal 
assent, that there are a great part of mankind to 
whom they are not so much as known. 

"<" 5. Not on the mind naturally imprinted, because not 
known to children, idiots, &c. For, first, it is evi- 
dent, that all children and idiots have not the 
least apprehension or thought of them. And the 
want of that is enough to destroy that universal 
assent which must needs be the necessary conco- 
mitant of all innate truths: it seeming to me near 
a contradiction to say, that there are truths im- 

1 C TMfd.le&x* to Stel&ogfleet, p 264, 286, 
340. 

*Cf. Bfc. IV. db. vfi. 



printed on the soul, which it perceives or under- 
stands not: imprinting, if it signify anything, be- 
ing nothing eke but the making certain truths 
to be perceived. For to imprint anything on the 
mind without the mind's perceiving it, seems to 
me hardly intelligible. If therefore children and 
idiots have souls, have minds, with those impres- 
sions upon them, they must unavoidably perceive 
them, and necessarily know and assent to these 
truths; which since they do not, it is evident that 
there are no such impressions. For if they are not 
notions naturally imprinted, how can they be 
innate? and if they are notions imprinted, how 
can they be unknown? To say a notion is im- 
printed on the mind, and yet at the same time to 
say, that the mind is ignorant of it, and never 
yet took notice of it, is to make this impression 
nothing. No proposition can be said to be in the 
mind which it never yet knew, which it was nev- 
er yet conscious of. For if any one may, then, by 
the same reason, all propositions that are true, 
and the mind is capable ever of assenting to, 
may be said to be in the mind, and to be im- 
printed: since, if any one can be said to be in the 
mind, which it never yet knew, it must be only 
because it is capable of knowing it; and so the 
mind is of all truths it ever shall know. Nay, 
thus truths may be imprinted on the mind which 
it never did, nor ever shall know; for a man may 
live long, and die at last in ignorance of many 
truths which his mind was capable of knowing, 
and that with certainty. So that if the capacity 
of knowing be the natural impression contended 
for, all the truths a man ever comes to know will, 
by this account, be every one of them innate; 
and this great point will amount to no more, but 
only to a very improper way of speaking; which, 
whilst it pretends to assert the contrary, says noth- 
ing different from those who deny innate princi- 
ples. For nobody, I think, ever denied that the 
mind was capable of knowing several truths. The 
capacity, they say, is innate; the knowledge ac- 
quired. But then to what end such contest for 
certain innate maxims? If truths can be imprinted 
on the understanding without being perceived, 
I can see no difference there can be between any 
truths the mind is capable of knowing in respect 
of their original: they must all be innate or all 
adventitious: in vain shall a man go about to 
distinguish them. He therefore that talks of in- 
nate notions in the understanding, cannot (if he 
intend thereby any distinct sort of truths) mean 
such truths to be in the understanding as it 
never perceived, and is yet wholly ignorant of. 
For if these words "to be in the understanding" 
have any propriety, they signify to be under- 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP. I 

stood. So that to be in the understanding, and 
not to be understood; to be in the mind and 
never to be perceived, is all one as to say any- 
thing is and is not in the mind or understanding. 
If therefore these two propositions, "Whatsoever 
is, is," and "It is impossible for the same thing to 
be and not to be, 55 are by nature imprinted, chil- 
dren cannot be ignorant of them: infants, and 
all that have souls, must necessarily have them 
in their understandings, know the truth of them, 
and assent to it. 

6. That men know them when they come to the use 
of reason, answered. To avoid this, it is usually an- 
swered, that all men know and assent to them, 
when they come to the use of reason; and this is enough 
to prove them innate. I answer: 

7. Doubtful expressions, that have scarce any 
signification, go for clear reasons to those who, 
being prepossessed, take not the pains to exam- 
ine even what they themselves say. For, to ap- 
ply this answer with any tolerable sense to our 
present purpose, it must signify one of these 
two things: either that as soon as men come 
to the use of reason these supposed native in- 
scriptions come to be known and observed by 
them; or else, that the use and exercise of 
men's reason, assists them in the discovery of 
these principles, and certainly makes them 
known to them. 

8. If reason discovered them, that would not prove 
them innate. If they mean, that by the use of rea- 
son men may discover these principles, and that 
this is sufficient to prove them innate; their way 
of arguing will stand thus, viz. that whatever 
truths reason can certainly discover to us, and 
make us firmly assent to, those are all naturally 
imprinted on the mind; since that universal as- 
sent, which is made the mark of them, amounts 
to no more but this, that by the use of reason 
we are capable to come to a certain knowledge 
of and assent to them; and, by this means, there 
will be no difference between the maxirng of the 
mathematicians, and theorems they deduce from 
them: all must be equally allowed innate; they 
being all discoveries made by the use of reason, 
and truths that a rational creature may certain- 
ly come to know, if he apply his thoughts rightly 
that way. 

9. It is false that reason discovers them. But how 
can these men think the use of reason necessary 
to discover principles that are supposed innate, 
when reason (if we may believe them) is nothing 
else but the faculty of deducing unknown truths 
from principles or propositions that are already 
known? That certainly can never be thought in- 
nate which we have need of reason to discover; 



97 



unless, as I have said, we will have all the cer- 
tain truths that reason ever teaches us, to be in- 
nate. We may as well think the use of reason 
necessary to make our eyes discover visible ob- 
jects, as that there should be need of reason, or 
the exercise thereof, to make the understanding 
see what is originally engraven on it, and cannot 
be in the understanding before it be perceived 
by it. So that to make reason discover those 
truths thus imprinted, is to say, that the use of 
reason discovers to a man what he knew before: 
and if men have those innate impressed truths 
originally, and before the use of reason, and yet 
are always ignorant of them till they come to the 
use of reason, it is in effect to say, that men know 
and know them not at the same time. 

ro. No use made of reasoning in the discovery of these 
two maxims. It will here perhaps be said that 
mathematical demonstrations, and other truths 
that are not innate, are not assented to as soon 
as proposed, wherein they are distinguished from 
these maxims and other innate truths. I shall 
have occasion to speak of assent upon the first 
proposing, more particularly by and by. I shall 
here only, and that very readily, allow, that these 
maxims and mathematical demonstrations are 
in this different: that the one have need of rea- 
son, using of proofs, to make them out and to 
gain our assent; but the other, as soon as under- 
stood, are, without any the least reasoning, em- 
braced and assented to. But I withal beg leave 
to observe, that it lays open the weakness of this 
subterfuge, which requires the use of reason for 
the discovery of these general truths: since it 
must be confessed that in their discovery there 
is no use made of reasoning at all. And I think 
those who give this answer will not be forward 
to affirm thatthe knowledge of this maxim, "That 
it is impossible for the same thing to be and not 
to be," is a deduction of our reason. For this 
would be to destroy that bounty of nature they 
seem so fond of, whilst they make the knowledge 
of those principles to depend on the labour of 
our thoughts. For all reasoning is search, and 
casting about, and requires pains and applica- 
tion. And how can it with any tolerable sense be 
supposed, that what was imprinted by nature, 
as the foundation and guide of our reason, should 
need the use of reason to discover it? 

1 1 . And if there were, this would prove them not in- 
note. Those who will take the pains to reflect with 
a little attention on the operations of the under- 
standing, will find that this ready assent of the 
mind to some truths, depends not, either on na- 
tive inscription, or the use of reason, but on a 
faculty of the mind quite distinct from both of 



JOHN LOCKE 



them, as we shall see hereafter. 1 Reason, there- 
fore, having nothing to do in procuring our as- 
sent to these maxims, if by saying, that "men 
know and assent to them, when they come to the 
use of reason," be meant, that the use of reason 
assists us in the knowledge of these maxims, it is 
utterly false; and were it true, would prove them 
not to be innate. 

12. The coming to the use of reason not the time we 
come to know these maxims. If by knowing and as- 
senting to them "when we come to the use of rea- 
son," be meant, that this is the time when they 
come to be taken notice of by the mind ; and that 
as soon as children come to the use of reason, 
they come also to know and assent to these max- 
ims; this also is false and frivolous. First, it is 
false; because it is evident these maxims are not 
in the mind so early as the use of reason; and 
therefore the coming to the use of reason is false- 
ly assigned as the time of their discovery. How 
many instances of the use of reason may we ob- 
serve in children, a long time before they have 
any knowledge of this maxim, ^hat it is impos- 
sible for the same thing to be and not to be?" 
And a great part of illiterate people and savages 
pass many years, even of their rational age, with- 
out ever thinking on this and the like general 
propositions. I grant, men come not to the knowl- 
edge of these general and more abstract truths, 
which are thought innate, till they come to the 
use of reason ; and I add, nor then neither. Which 
is so, because, till after they come to the use of rea- 
son, those general abstract ideas are not framed 
in the mind, about which those general maxims 
are, which are mistaken for innate principles, 
but are indeed discoveries made and verities in- 
troduced and brought into the mind by the same 
way, and discovered by the same steps, as sev- 
eral other propositions, which nobody was ever 
so extravagant as to suppose innate. This I hope 
to make plain in the sequel of this Discourse. I 
allow therefore, a necessity that men should come 
to the use of reason before they get the knowl- 
edge of those general truths; but deny that men's 
coming to the use of reason is the time of their 
discovery. 

j$. By this they fare not distinguished jrom other 
hwix&le truths. In the mean time it is observa- 
ble, that this saying, that men know and assent to 
these ma.xinns "when they come to the use of rea- 
son," amounts in reality of fact to no more but 
this, tha,t they are never known nor taken no- 
tice of before the use of reason, but may possibly 
be assented &> soqae tfme after, during a man's 

<&^ xvii f 



BOOK I 

life; but when is uncertain. And so may all other 
knowable truths, as well as these; which there- 
fore have no advantage nor distinction from oth- 
ers by this note of being known when we come 
to the use of reason; nor are thereby proved to 
be innate, but quite the contrary. 

14. If coming to the use of reason were the time of 
their discovery, it would not prove them innate. But, 
secondly, were it true that the precise time of 
their being known and assented to 2 were, when 
men come to the use of reason; neither would 
that prove them innate. This way of arguing is 
as frivolous as the supposition itself is false. For, 
by what kind of logic will it appear that any no- 
tion is originally by nature imprinted hi the mind 
in its first constitution, because it comes first to 
be observed and assented to when a faculty of 
the mind, which has quite a distinct province, 
begins to exert itself? And therefore the coming 
to the use of speech, if it were supposed the time 
that these maxims are first assented to, (which it 
may be with as much truth as the time when 
men come to the use of reason,) would be as 
good a proof that they were innate, as to say they 
are innate because men assent to them when 
they come to the use of reason. I agree then with 
these men of innate principles, that there is no 
knowledge of these general and self-evident max- 
ims in the mind, till it comes to the exercise of 
reason: but I deny that the coming to the use of 
reason is the precise time when they are first 
taken notice of, and if that were the precise time, 
I deny that it would prove them innate. All that 
can with any truth be meant by this proposition, 
that men "assent to them when they come to the 
use of reason," is no more but this, that the 
making of general abstract ideas, and the under- 
standing of general names, being a concomitant 
of the rational faculty, and growing up with it, 
children commonly get not those general ideas, 
nor learn the names that stand for them, till, 
having for a good while exercised their reason 
about familiar and more particular ideas, they 
are, by their ordinary discourse and actions with 
others, acknowledged to be capable of rational 
conversation. If assenting to these maxims, when 
men come to the use of reason, can be true in 
any other sense, I desire it may be shown; or at 
least, how in this, or any other sense, it proves 
them innate. 

15. The steps bv which the mind attmnsjeveral 
truths. The senses at first let in particular ideas, 
and furnish the yet empty ca frjjnf t TffH -th* min^ 
by degrees growing familiar ^jth nnruo of thf m , 
they are lodged in the memory r and names got 

Enquiry; f*. 457, f&, i, below. , 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP. I 

to them. Afterwards, Jthe .mud-proceeding fur- 
ther, abstractsj;hei3^^ learns the 
use of general names. In this manner the mind 
comes to be furnished with ideas and language, 
the materials about which to exercise its discur- 
sive faculty. And the use of reason becomes daily 
more visible, as these materials that give it em- 
ployment increase. But though the having of gen- 
eral ideas and the use of general words and rea- 
son usually grow together, yet I see not how this 
any way proves them innate. The knowledge of 
some truths, I confess, is very early in the mind 
but in a way that shows them not to be innate. 
For, if we will observe, we shall find it still to be 
about ideas, not innate, but acquired; it being 
about those first which are imprinted by exter- 
nal things, with which infants have earliest to 
do, which make the most frequent impressions 
on their senses. In ideas thus got, the mind dis- 
covers that some agree and others differ, proba- 
bly as soon as it has any use of memory; as soon 
as it is able to retain and perceive distinct ideas. 
But whether it be then or no, this is certain, it 
does so long before it has the use of words; or 
comes to that which we commonly call "the use 
of reason." For a child knows as certainly before 
it can speak the difference between the ideas of 
sweet and bitter (i.e. that sweet is not bitter), as 
it knows afterwards (when it comes to speak) 
that wormwood and sugarplums are not the same 
thing. 

1 6. Assent to supposed innate truths depends on hav- 
ing clear and distinct ideas of what their terms mean, 
and not on their innateness. A child knows not that 
three and four are equal to seven, till he comes 
to be able to count seven, and has got the name 
and idea of equality; and then, upon explaining 
those words, he presently assents to, or rather 
perceives the truth of that proposition. But nei- 
ther does he then readily assent because it is an 
innate truth, nor was his assent wanting till then 
because he wanted the use of reason; but the 
truth of it appears to him as soon as he has set- 
tled in his mind the clear and distinct ideas that 
these names stand for. And then he knows the 
truth of that proposition upon the same grounds 
and by the same means, that he knew before that 
a rod and a cherry are not the same thing; and 
upon the same grounds also that he may come 
to know afterwards "That it is impossible for the 
same thing to be and not to be," as shall be more 
fully shown hereafter. 1 So that the later it is be- 
fore any one comes to have those general ideas 
about which those maxims are; or to know the 
signification of those general terms that stand 

1 ln Bk. IV. ch. ii. i, and ch. vii. 9. 



99 



for them; or to put together in his mind the ideas 
they stand for; the later also will it be before he 
comes to assent to those maxims; whose terms, 
with the ideas they stand for, being no more in- 
nate than those of a cat or a weasel, he must stay 
till time and observation have acquainted him 
with them; and then he will be in a capacity to 
know the truth of these maxims, upon the first 
occasion that shall make him put together those 
ideas in his mind, and observe whether they 
agree or disagree, according as is expressed in 
those propositions. And therefore it is that a man 
knows that eighteen and nineteen are equal to 
thirty-seven, by the same self-evidence that he 
knows one and two to be equal to three: yet a 
child knows this not so soon as the other; not for 
want of the use of reason, but because the ideas 
the words eighteen, nineteen, and thirty-seven 
stand for, are not so soon got, as those which are 
signified by one, two, and three. 

1 7. Assenting as soon as proposed and understood, 
proves them not innate. This evasion therefore of 
general assent when men come to the use of rea- 
son, failing as it does, and leaving no difference 
between those suppose innate and other truths 
that are afterwards acquired and learnt, men 
have endeavoured to secure an universal assent 
to those they call maxims, 2 by saying, they are 
generally assented to as soon as proposed, and 
the terms they are proposed in understood: see- 
ing all men, even children, as soon as they hear 
and understand the terms, assent to these propo- 
sitions, they think it is sufficient to prove them 
innate. For since men never fail after they have 
once understood the words, to acknowledge them 
for undoubted truths, they would infer, that cer- 
tainly these propositions were first lodged in the 
understanding, which, without any teaching, the 
mind, at the very first proposal immediately 
closes with and assents to, and after that never 
doubts again. 

1 8. If such an assent be a mark of 'innate, then "thai- 
one and two are equal to three, that sweetness is not bit- 
terness, "and a thousand the like, must be innate. In an- 
swer to this, I demand whether ready assent given 
to a proposition, upon first hearing and under- 
standing the terms, be a certain mark of an in- 
nate principle? If it be not, such a general assent 
is in vain urged as a proof of them: if it be said 
that it is a mark of innate, they must then allow 
all such propositions to be innate which are gen- 
erally assented to as soon as heard, whereby they 
will find themselves plentifully stored with in- 
nate principles. For upon the same ground, viz, 
of assent at first hearing and understanding the 

*Cf. Bk.IV.ch. vii 



IOO 

terms, that men would have those maxims pass 
for innate, they must also admit several proposi- 
tions about numbers to be innate; and thus, that 
one and two are equal to three, that two and 
two are equal to four, and a multitude of other 
the like propositions in numbers, that everybody 
assents to at first hearing and understanding the 
termsj must have a place amongst these innate 
axioms. Nor is this the prerogative of numbers 
alone, and propositions made about several of 
them; but even natural philosophy, and all the 
other sciences, afford propositions which are sure 
to meet with assent as soon as they are under- 
stood. That "two bodies cannot be in the same 
place" is a truth that nobody any more sticks at 
than at these maxims, that "it is impossible for 
the same thing to be and not to be," that "white 
is not black," that "a square is not a circle," that 
"bitterness is not sweetness." These and a million 
of such other propositions, as many at least as 
we have distinct ideas of, every man in his wits, 
at first hearing, and knowing what the names 
stand for, must necessarily assent to. 1 If these 
men will be true to their own rule, and have as- 
sent at first hearing and understanding the terms 
to be a mark of innate, they must allow not only 
as many innate propositions as men have dis- 
tinct ideas, but as many as men can make prop- 
ositions wherein different ideas are denied one of 
another. Since every proposition wherein one 
different idea is denied of another, will as cer- 
tainly find assent at first hearing and understand- 
ing the terms as this general one, "It is impossi- 
ble for the same thing to be and not to be," or 
that which is the foundation of it, and is the eas- 
ier understood of the two, "The same is not dif- 
ferent"; by which account they will have legions 
of innate propositions of this one sort, without 
mentioning any other. But, since no proposition 
can be innate unless the ideas about which it is 
be innate, this will be to suppose all our ideas of 
colours, sounds, tastes, figure, &c., innate, than 
which there cannot be anything more opposite 
to reason and experience. 2 Universal and ready 
assent upon hearing and understanding the terms 
is, I grant, a mark of self-evidence; but self-evi- 
dence, depending not on innate impressions, but 
on something else, (as we shall show hereafter, 3 ) 
belongs to several propositions which nobody 
was yet so extravagant as to pretend to be in- 
nate. 

19. Such less general propositions known before these 
universal maxims. Nor let it be said, that those 



JOHN LOCKE 



1 Cf, ch. iii. J 20. 
8 Cf. Hwae, &tq*i& 



7, fku i, below. 



BOOK I 

more particular self-evident propositions, which 
are assented to at first hearing, as that "one and 
two are equal to three," that "green is not red," 
&c., are received as the consequences of those 
more universal propositions which are looked on 
as innate principles; since any one, who will but 
take the pains to observe what passes in the un- 
derstanding, will certainly find that these, and 
the like less general propositions, are certainly 
known, and firmly assented to by those who are 
utterly ignorant of those more general maxims; 
and so, being earlier in the mind than those (as 
they are called) first principles, cannot owe to 
them the assent wherewith they are received at 
first hearing. 

20. "One and one equal to Two, &c., not general 
nor useful" answered. If it be said, that these prop- 
ositions, viz. "two and two are equal to four," 
"red is not blue," &c., are not general maximsj 
nor of any great use, I answer, that makes noth- 
ing to the argument of universal assent upon 
hearing and understanding. For, if that be the 
certain mark of innate, whatever proposition can 
be found that receives general assent as soon as 
heard and understood, that must be admitted 
for an innate proposition, as well as this maxim, 
"That it is impossible for the same thing to be 
and not to be," they beinguponthis groundequal. 
And as to the difference of being more general, 
that makes this maxim more remote from being 
innate; those general and abstract ideas being 
more strangers to our first apprehensions than 
those of more particular self-evident proposi- 
tions; and therefore it is longer before they are 
admitted and assented to by the growing under- 
standing. And as to the usefulness of these mag- 
nified maxims, that perhaps will not be found so 
great as is generally conceived, when it comes in 
its due place to be more fully considered. 4 

21 These maxims not being known sometimes till 
proposed^ proves them not innate. But we have not 
yet done with "assenting to propositions at first 
hearing and understanding their terms." It is fit 
we first take notice that this, instead of being a 
mark that they are innate, is a proof of the con- 
trary; since it supposes that several, who under- 
stand and know other things, are ignorant of 
these principles till they are proposed to them; 
and that one may be unacquainted with these 
truths till he hears them from others. For, if they 
were innate, what need they be proposed in or- 
der to gaining assent, when, by being in the un- 
derstanding, by a natural and original impres- 
sion, (if there were any such,) they could not but 
be known before? Or doth the proposing them 
<SeeBk. IV.ch.vii. 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP. I 

print them clearer in the mind than nature did? 
If so, then the consequence will be, that a man 
knows them better after he has been thus taught 
them than he did before. Whence it will follow 
that these principles may be made more evident 
to us by others' teaching than nature has made 
them by impression: which will ill agree with the 
opinion of innate principles, and give but little 
authority to them; but, on the contrary, makes 
them unfit to be the foundations of all our other 
knowledge; as they are pretended to be. This 
cannot be denied, that men grow first acquainted 
with many of these self-evident truths upon their 
being proposed: but it is clear that whosoever 
does so, finds in himself that he then begins to 
know a proposition, which he knew not before, 
and which from thenceforth he never questions; 
not because it was innate, but because the con- 
sideration of the nature of the things contained 
in those words would not suffer him to think 
otherwise, how, or whensoever he is brought to 
reflect on them. And if whatever is assented to 
at first hearing and understanding the terms 
must pass for an innate principle, every well- 
grounded observation, drawn from particulars 
into a general rule, must be innate. When yet it 
is certain that not all, but only sagacious heads, 
light at first on these observations, and reduce 
them into general propositions: not innate, but 
collected from a preceding acquaintance and 
reflection on particular instances. These, when 
observing men have made them, unobserving 
men, when they are proposed to them, cannot 
refuse their assent to. 

22. Implicitly known before proposing, signifies that 
the mind is capable of understanding them, or else sig- 
nifies nothing. If it be said, the understanding hath 
an implicit knowledge of these principles, but not 
an explicit, before this first hearing (as they must 
who will say "that they are in the understanding 
before they are known,") it will be hard to con- 
ceive what is meant by a principle imprinted on 
the understanding implicitly, unless it be this, 
that the mind is capable of understanding and 
assenting firmly to such propositions. And thus 
all mathematical demonstrations, as well as first 
principles, must be received as native impres- 
sions on the mind; which I fear they will scarce 
allow them to be, who find it harder to demon- 
strate a proposition than assent to it when dem- 
onstrated. And few mathematicians will be for- 
ward to believe, that all the diagrams they have 
drawn were but copies of those innate characters 
which nature had engraven 1 upon their minds. 

23. The argument oj assenting on first hearing* is 
*Cf. Bk, IV, ch, ii 7. 



101 

upon afalse supposition oj no precedent teaching. There 
is, I fear, this further weakness in the foregoing 
argument, which would persuade us that there- 
fore those maxims are to be thought innate, which 
men admit at first hearing; because they assent 
to propositions which they are not taught, nor 
do receive from the force of any argument or 
demonstration, but a bare explication or under- 
standing of the terms. Under which there seems 
to me to lie this fallacy, that men are supposed 
not to be taught nor to learn anything de novo; 
when, in truth, they are taught, and do learn 
something they were ignorant of before. For, first, 
it is evident that they have learned the terms, 
and their signification ; neither of which was born 
with them. But this is not ail the acquired knowl- 
edge in the case: the ideas themselves, about . 
which the proposition is, are not born with them, 
no more than their names, but got afterwards. 
So that in all propositions that are assented to at 
first hearing, the terms of the proposition, their 
standing for such ideas, and the ideas themselves 
that they stand for, being neither of them in- 
nate, I would fain know what there is remaining 
in such propositions that is innate. For I would 
gladly have any one name that proposition whose 
terms or ideas were either of them innate. We by 
degrees get ideas and names, and learn their ap- 
propriated connexion one with another; and then 
to propositions made in such terms, whose sig- 
nification we have learnt, and wherein the agree- 
ment or disagreement we can perceive in our 
ideas when put together is expressed, we at first 
hearing assent; though to other propositions, in 
themselves as certain and evident, but which are 
concerning ideas not so soon or so easily got, we 
are at the same time no way capable of assent- 
ing. For, though a child quickly assents to this 
proposition, "That an apple is not fire,'* when by 
familiar acquaintance he has got the ideas of 
those two different things distinctly imprinted 
on his mind, and has learnt that the names ap- 
ple and fire stand for them; yet it will be some 
years after, perhaps, before the same child will 
assent to this proposition, "That it is impossible 
for the same thing to be and not to be"; because 
that, though perhaps the words are as easy to be 
learnt, yet the signification of them being more 
large, comprehensive, and abstract than of the 
names annexed to those sensible things the child 
hath to do with, it is longer before he learns their 
precise meaning, and it requires more time plain- 
ly to form in his mind those general ideas they 
stand for. Till that be done, you will in vain en- 
deavour to make any child assent to a proposi- 
tion made up of such general terms; but as soon 



102 

as ever he has got those ideas, and learned their 
names, he forwardly closes with the one as well 
as the other of the forementioned propositions: 
and with both for the same reason; viz. because 
he finds the ideas he has in his mind to agree or 
disagree, according as the words standing for 
them are affirmed or denied one of another in 
the proposition. But if propositions be brought 
to him in words which stand for ideas he has not 
yet in his mind, to such propositions, however 
evidently true or false in themselves, he affords 
neither assent nor dissent, but is ignorant. For 
words being but empty sounds, any further than 
they are signs of our ideas, we cannot but assent 
to them as they correspond to those ideas we 
have, but no further than that. But the showing 
by what steps and ways knowledge comes into 
our minds; and the grounds of several degrees of 
assent, being the business of the following Dis- 
course, it may suffice to have only touched on it 
here, as one reason that made me doubt of those 
innate principles. 

24. Not innate., because not universally assented to. 
To conclude this argument of universal consent, 
I agree with these defenders of innate princi- 
ples, that if they are innate, they must needs 
have universal assent. For that a truth should be 
innate and yet not assented to, is to me as unin- 
telligible as for a man to know a truth and be ig- 
norant of it at the same time. But then, by these 
men's own confession, they cannot be innate; 
since they are not assented to by those who un- 
derstand not the terms; nor by a great part of 
thosewhodounderstand them, but have yet never 
heard nor thought of those propositions; which, 
I think, is at least one half of mankind. But were 
the number far less, it would be enough to de- 
stroy universal assent, and thereby show these 
propositions not to be innate, if children alone 
were ignorant of them. 

25. These maxims not the fast known. But that I 
may not be accused to argue from the thoughts 
of infants, which are unknown to us, and to con- 
dude from what passes in their understandings 
before they express it; I say next, that these two 
general propositions are not the truths that first 
possess the miads of children, nor are antecedent 
to all acquired and adventitious notions: which, 
if they were innate, they must needs be. Whether 
we can determine it or 330, it matters ttot, there 
is certainly a time when children^ begin to think, 
and their words and actions d#> assure us that 
they do BO, Wten therefore t!heyfae capable of 
thought, of knowledge, of assent; -can it rational- 
ly be supposed tiaey(^G'bcigBora^(rftlK)se no- 
riated, were titere any 



JOHN LOCKE 



BOOK I 



such? Can it be imagined, with any appearance 
of reason, that they perceive the impressions from 
things without, and be at the same time ignorant 
of those characters which nature itself has taken 
care to stamp within? Can they receive and as- 
sent to adventitious notions, and be ignorant of 
those which are supposed woven into the very 
principles of their being, and imprinted there in 
indelible characters, to be the foundation and 
guide of all their acquired knowledge and future 
reasonings? This would be to make nature take 
pains to no purpose; or at least to write very ill; 
since its characters could not be read by those 
eyes which saw other things very well: and those 
are very ill supposed the clearest parts of truth, 
and the foundations of all our knowledge, which 
are not first known, and without which the un- 
doubted knowledge of several other things may 
be had. The child certainly knows, that the nurse 
that feeds it is neither the cat it plays with, nor 
the blackmoor it is afraid of: that the wormseed 
or mustard it refuses, is not the apple or sugar it 
cries for: this it is certainly and undoubtedly as- 
sured of: but will any one say, it is by virtue of 
this principle, "That it is impossible for the same 
thing to be and not to be," that it so firmly as- 
sents to these and other parts of its knowledge? 
Or that the child has any notion or apprehen- 
sion of that proposition at an age, wherein yet, 
it is plain, it knows a great many other truths? 
He that will say, children join in these general 
abstract speculations with their sucking-bottles 
and their rattles, may perhaps, with justice, be 
thought to have more passion and zeal for his 
opinion, but less sincerity and truth, than one of 
that age. 

$6. And so not innate. Though therefore there 
be several general propositions that meet with 
constant and ready assent, as soon as proposed 
to men grown up, who have attained the use 
of more general and abstract ideas, and names 
standing for them; yet they not being to be found 
in those of tender years, who nevertheless know 
other things, they cannot pretend to universal 
assent of intelligent persons, and so by no means 
can be supposed innate; it being impossible 
that any truth which is innate (if there were any 
such) should be unknown, at least to any one 
who knows anything else. Since, if they are in- 
nate truths, they must be innate thoughts: there 
being nothing a truth in the mind that it has 
never thought on. Whereby it is evident, if there 
by any innate truths, they must necessarily be 
"the first of any thought on; the first that appear. 
27. Not innate, because they appear least where 
what is innate shows itself dearest. That the ge>neral 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP. II 

maxims we are discoursing of are not known to 
children, idiots, and a great part of mankind, 
we have already sufficiently proved: whereby it 
is evident they have not an universal assent, nor 
are general impressions. But there is this further 
argument in it against their being innate: that 
these characters, if they were native and origi- 
nal impressions, should appear fairest and clear- 
est in those persons in whom yet we find no foot- 
steps of them; and it is, in my opinion, a strong 
presumption that they are not innate, since they 
are least known to those in whom, if they were 
innate, they must needs exert themselves with 
most force and vigour. For children, idiots, sav- 
ages, and illiterate people, being of all others the 
least corrupted by custom, or borrowed opin- 
ions; learning and education having not cast their 
native thoughts into new moulds; nor by super- 
inducing foreign and studied doctrines, con- 
founded those fair characters nature had written 
there; one might reasonably imagine that in their 
minds these innate notions should lie open fairly 
to every one's view, as it is certain the thoughts 
of children do. It might very well be expected 
that these principles should be perfectly known 
to naturals; which being stamped immediately 
on the soul, (as these men suppose,) can have no 
dependence on the constitution or organs of the 
body, the only confessed difference between them 
and others. One would think., according to these 
men's principles, that all these native beams of 
light (were there any such) should, in those who 
have no reserves, no arts of concealment, shine 
out in their full lustre, and leave, us in no more 
doubt of their being there, than we are of their 
love of pleasure and abhorrence of pain. But 
alas, amongst children, idiots, savages, and the 
grossly illiterate, what general maxims are to be 
found? What universal principles of knowledge? 
Their notions are few and narrow, borrowed 
only from those objects they have had most to 
do with, and which have made upon their senses 
thefrequentest and strongest impressions. A child 
knows his nurse and his cradle, and by degrees 
the playthings of a little more advanced age; 
and a young savage has, perhaps, his head filled 
with love and hunting, according to the fashion 
of his tribe. But he that from a child untaught, 
or a wild inhabitant of the woods, will expect 
these abstract maxims and reputed principles of 
science, will, I fear, find himself mistaken. Such 
kind of general propositions are seldom men- 
tioned in the huts of Indians: much less are they 
to be found in the thoughts of children, or any 
impressions of them on the minds of naturals. 
They are the language and business of the schools 



103 



and academies of learned nations, accustomed 
to that sort of conversation or learning, where 
disputes are frequent; these maxims being suited 
to artificial argumentation and useful for con- 
viction, but not much conducing to the discov- 
ery of truth or advancement of knowledge. But 
of their small use for the improvement of know- 
ledge I shall have occasion to speak more at 
large, 1. 4, c. 7. 

28. Recapitulation. I know not how absurd this 
may seem to the masters of demonstration. And 
probably it will hardly go down with anybody 
at first hearing. I must therefore beg a little 
truce with prejudice, and the forbearance of cen- 
sure, till I have been heard out in the sequel of 
this Discourse, being very willing to submit to 
better judgments. And since I impartially search 
after truth, I shall not be sorry to be convinced, 
that I have been too fond of my own notions; 
which I confess we are all apt to be, when appli- 
cation and study have warmed our heads with 
them. 

Upon the wholematter, I cannotseeanyground 
to think these two speculative Maxims innate: 
since they are not universally assented to; and 
the assent they so generally find is no other than 
what several propositions, not allowed to be in- 
nate, equally partake in with them: and since 
the assent that is given them is produced an- 
other way, and comes not from natural inscrip- 
tion, as I doubt not but to make appear in the 
following Discourse. And if these "first principles" 
of knowledge and science are found not to be in- 
nate, no other speculative maxims can (I sup- 
pose), with better right pretend to be so. 

Chap. II. No Innate Practical Principles 

i . No moral principles so clear and so generally re- 
ceived as theforementioned speculative maxims. If those 
speculative Maxims, whereof we discoursed in 
the foregoing chapter, have not an actual univer- 
sal assent from all mankind, as we there proved 3 
it is much more visible concerning practical Prin- 
ciples, that they come short of an universal re- 
ception: and I think it will be hard to instance 
any one moral rule which can pretend to so gen- 
eral and ready an assent as, "What is, is" ; or to 
be so manifest a truth as this, that "It is impos- 
sible for the same thing to be and not to be." 
Whereby it is evident that they are further re- 
moved from a title to be innate; and the doubt 
of their being native impressions on the mind is 
stronger against those moral principles than the 
other. Not that it barings their truth at all in ques- 
tion. They are equally true, though not equal- 
ly evident. Those speculative maxims carry tfeeir 



IO4 

own evidence with them: but moral principles 
require reasoning and discourse, and some exer- 
cise of the mind, to discover the certainty of 
their truth. They lie not open as natural char- 
acters engraven on the mind; which, if any 
such were, they must needs be visible by them- 
selves, and by their own light be certain and 
known to everybody. But this is no derogation 
to their truth and certainty; no more than it is 
to the truth or certainty of the three angles of a 
triangle being equal to two right ones: because 
it is not so evident as "the whole is bigger than a 
part," nor so apt to be assented to at first hear- 
ing. It may suffice that these moral rules are 
capable of demonstration: and therefore it is 
our own faults if we come not to a certain know- 
ledge of them. But the ignorance wherein many 
men are of them, and the slowness of assent where- 
with others receive them, are manifest proofs 
that they are not innate, and such as offer them- 
selves to their view without searching. 

2. Faith and justice not owned as principles by all 
men. Whether there be any such moral princip- 
les, wherein all men do agree, I appeal to any 
who have been but moderately conversant in 
the history of mankind, and looked abroad be- 
yond the smoke of their own chimneys. Where 
is that practical truth that is universally received, 
without doubt or question, as it must be if in- 
nate? Justice, and keeping of contracts, is that 
which most men seem to agree in. This is a prin- 
ciple which is thought to extend itself to the dens 
of thieves, and the confederacies of the greatest 
villains; and they who have gone furthest to- 
wards the putting off of humanity itself, keep 
faith and rules of justice one with another. I 
grantthatoutlawsthemselvesdothisoneamongst 
another: but it is without receiving these as the 
innate laws of nature. They practise them as rules 
of convenience within their own communities: 
but it is impossible to conceive that he embraces 
justice as a practical principle, who acts fairly 
with his fellow-highwayman, and at the same 
time plunders or kills the next honest man he 
meets with. Justice and truth are the common 
ties of society; and therefore even outlaws and 
robbers, who break with all the world besides, 
must keep faith and rules of equity amongst them- 
selves; or else they cannot hold together. But 
will any one say, that those that live by fraud or 
rapine have innate principles of truth and just- 
ice which they allow and assent to? 

3. Objection: "though men deny them in their prac- 
tice, yet they tidmti them in their thoughts," answered. 
Perhaps it will be surged, that $ke tacit assent of 
their minds agrees $& what itieir practice 



JOHN LOCKE 



BOOK I 

tradicts. I answer, first, I have always thought 
the action's of men the best interpreters of their 
thoughts. But, since it is certain that most men's 
practices, and some men's open professions, have 
either questioned or denied these principles, it 
is impossible to establish an universal consent, 
(though we should look for it only amongst grown 
men,) without which it is impossible to conclude 
them innate. Secondly, it is very strange and un- 
reasonable to suppose innate practical princi- 
ples, that terminate only in contemplation. Prac- 
tical principles, derived from nature, are there 
for operation, and must produce conformity of ac- 
tion, not barely speculative assent to their truth, 
or else they are in vain distinguished from specu- 
lative maxims. Nature, I confess, has put into 
man a desire of happiness and an aversion to 
misery: these indeed are innate practical prin- 
ciples 1 which (as practical principles ought) do 
continue constantly to operate and influence all 
our actions without ceasing: these may be ob- 
served in all persons and all ages, steady and 
universal; but these are inclinations of the appetite 
to good, not impressions of truth on the under- 
standing. I deny not that there are natural ten- 
dencies imprinted on the minds of men; and that 
from the very first instances of sense and percep- 
tion, there are some things that are grateful and 
others unwelcome to them; some things that they 
incline to and others that they fly: but this makes 
nothing for innate'characters on the mind, which 
are to be the principles of knowledge regulating 
our practice. Such natural impressions on the 
understanding are so far from being confirmed 
hereby, that this is an argument against them; 
since, if there were certain characters imprinted 
by nature on the understanding, as the princi- 
ples of knowledge, we could not but perceive 
them constantly operate in us and influence our 
knowledge, as we do those others on the will and 
appetite; which never cease to be the constant 
springs and motives of all our actions, to which 
we perpetually feel them strongly impelling us. 

4. Moral rules need a proof, ergo not innate. An- 
other reason that makes me doubt of any innate 
practical principles is, that I think there cannot 
any one moral rule be proposed whereof a man may not 
justly demand a reason: which would be perfectly 
ridiculous and absurd if they were innate; or so 
much as self-evident, which every innate prin- 
ciple must needs be, and not need any proof to 
ascertain its truth, nor want any reason to gain 
it approbation. He would be thought void of 
common sense who asked on the one side, or on 
the other side went to give a reason why "it is 

'Cfl Bk. II. ch. xxi. 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP. II 

impossible for the same thing to be and not to 
be." It carries its own light and evidence with it, 
and needs no other proof: he that understands 
the terms assents to it for its own sake or else 
nothing will ever be able to prevail with him to 
do it. But should that most unshaken rule of mor- 
ality and foundation of all social virtue, "That 
one should do as he would be done unto," be 
proposed to one who never heard of it before, 
but yet is of capacity to understand its mean- 
ing; might he not without any absurdity ask a 
reason why? And were not he that proposed it 
bound to make out the truth and reasonable- 
ness of it to him? Which plainly shows it not to 
be innate; for if it were it could neither want nor 
receive any proof; but must needs (at least as 
soon as heard and understood) be received and 
assented to as an unquestionable truth, which a 
man can by no means doubt of. So that the 
truth of all these moral rules plainly depends 
upon some other antecedent to them, and from 
which they must be deduced; which could not be 
if either they were innate or so much as self-evi- 
dent. 

5. Instance in keeping compacts. That men should 
keep their compacts is certainly a great and un- 
deniable rule in morality. But yet, if a Christian, 
who has the view of happiness and misery in an- 
other life, be asked why a man must keep his 
word, he will give this as a reason: Because 
God, who has the power of eternal life and death, 
requires it of us. But if a Hobbist be asked why? 
he will answer: Because the public requires it, 
and the Leviathan will punish you if you do not. 
And if one of the old philosophers had been 
asked, he would have answered : Because it was 
dishonest, below the dignity of a man, and op- 
posite to virtue, the highest perfection of human 
nature, to do otherwise. 

6. Virtue generally approved, not because^ innate, 
but because profitable. Hence naturally flows the 
great variety of opinions concerning moral rules 
which are to be found among men, according to 
the different sorts of happiness they have a pros- 
pect of, or propose to themselves; which could 
not be if practical principles were innate, and 
imprinted in our minds immediately by the hand 
of God. I grant the existence of God is so many 
ways manifest, and the obedience we owe him 
so congruous to the light of reason, that a great 
part of mankind give testimony to the law of na- 
ture: but yet I think it must be allowed that sev- 
eral moral rules may receive from mankind a 
very general approbation, without either know- 
ing or admitting the true ground of morality; 
which can only be the will and law of a God, 



105 



who sees men in the dark, has in his hand re- 
wards and punishments and power enough to 
call to account the proudest offender. For, God 
having, by an inseparable connexion, joined vir- 
tue and public happiness together, and made the 
practice thereof necessary to the- preservation of 
society, and visibly beneficial to all with whom 
the virtuous man has to do; it is no wonder that 
every one should not only allow, but recommend 
and magnify those rules to others, from whose 
observance of them he is sure to reap advantage 
to himself. He may, out of interest as well as 
conviction, cry up that for sacred, which, if once 
trampled on and profaned, he himself cannot 
be safe nor secure. This, though it takes nothing 
from the moral and eternal obligation which 
these rules evidently have, yet it shows that the 
outward acknowledgment men pay to them in 
their words proves not that they are innate prin- 
ciples: nay, it proves not so much as that men 
assent to them inwardly in their own minds, as 
the inviolable rules of their own practice; since 
we find that self-interest, and the conveniences 
of this life, make many men own an outward 
profession and approbation of them, whose ac- 
tions sufficiently prove that they very little con- 
sider the Lawgiver that prescribed these rules; 
nor the hell that he has ordained for the punish- 
ment of those that transgress them. 

7. Men's actions convince us that the rule of virtue 
is not their internal principle. For, if we will not in 
civility allow too much sincerity to the profes- 
sions of most men, but think their actions to be 
the interpreters of their thoughts, we shall find 
that they have no such internal veneration for 
these rules, nor so full a persuasion of their cer- 
tainty and obligation. The great principle of 
morality, "To do as one would be done to," is 
more commended than practised. But the breach 
of this rule cannot be a greater vice, than to 
teach others, that it is no moral rule, nor obliga- 
tory, would be thought madness, and contrary 
to that interest men sacrifice to, when they break 
it themselves. Perhaps conscience will be urged as 
checking us for such br^3iesJjaf3-s& the inter- 
nal oHigafibn and establishment of the rule be 
preserved. 

8. Conscience no proof of any innate morjjLfule. To 
which I ariswerTtEaTl doubt not but, without 
being written on their hearts, many men may, 
by the same way that they come to the know- 
ledge of other things, come to assent to several 
moral rules, and be convinced of their obliga- 
tion. Others also may come to be of the same 
mind, from their education, company, and cus- 
toms of their country; which persuasion, how- 



io6 



JOHN LOCKE 



ever got, will serve to set conscience- on work; 
which is nothing else but our own opinion or 
judgment of the rnoral 4^ctitude. or pravity of 
ouiuiwiraeSons; and if conscience be a proof of 
innate principles, contraries may be innate prin- 
ciples; since some men with the same bent of 
conscience prosecute what others avoid. 

9. Instances of enormities practised without remorse. 
But I cannot see how any men should ever trans- 
gress those moral rules, with confidence and se- 
renity, were they innate, and stamped upon their 
minds. View but an army at the sacking of a 
town, and see what observation or sense of moral 
principles, or what touch of conscience for all 
the outrages they do. Robberies, murders, rapes, 
are the sports of men set at liberty from punish- 
ment and censure. Have there not been whole 
nations, and those of the most civilized people, 
amongst whom the exposing their children, and 
leaving them in the fields to perish by want or 
wild beasts has been the practice; as little con- 
demned or scrupled as the begetting them? Do 
they not still, in some countries, put them into 
the same graves with their mothers, if they die 
in childbirth; or despatch them, if a pretended 
astrologer declares them to have unhappy stars? 
And are there not places where, at a certain age, 
they kill or expose their parents, without any re- 
morse at all? In a part of Asia, the sick, when 
their case comes to be thought desperate, are 
carried out and laid on the earth before they 
are dead; and left there, exposed to wind and 
weather, to perish without assistance or pity. 1 
It is familiar among the Mingrelians, a people 
professing Christianity, to bury their children 
alive without scruple.* There are places where 
they eat their own children. * The Caribbees were 
wont to geld their children, on purpose to fat 
and eat them. 4 And Garcilasso de la Vega tells 
us of a people in Peru which were wont to fat 
and eat the children they got on their female 
captives, whom they kept as concubines for that 
purpose, and when they were past breeding, the 
mothers themselves were killed too and eaten. 6 
Hie virtues whereby the Tououpinambos be- 
lieved they' merited paradise, were revenge, and 
eating abundance of their enemies. They have 
not so much as a name for God, 8 and have no 
religion, no worship. The saints who are canon- 
ized anKmgst the Turks, lead lives which one 
cannot with modesty relate. A remarkable pas- 



*LamJ?ert apud Tfr-evpnot, p* 



BOOK I 

sage to this purpose, out of the voyage of Baum- 
garten, which is a book not every day to be met 
with, I shall set down at large, in the language 
it is published in. Ibi (sc. prope Belbes in ^Egypto) 
vidimus sanctum unum Saracenicum inter arenarum cu- 
mulos, ita ut ex utero matris prodiit nudum sedentem. 
Mos esty ut didicimus, Mahometistis, ut eos, qui amen- 
tes et sine ratione sunt, prosanctis colant et venerentur. 
Insuper et eos, qui cum diu vitam egerint inquinatissi- 
mam, voluntariam demum p&nitentiam et paupertatem, 
sanctitate venerandos deputant. Ejusmodi verb genus 
hominum libertatem quandam effrenem habent, domos 
quos volunt intrandi, edendi, bibendi, et quod majus est, 
concumbendi; ex quo concubitu, si proles secuta fuerit, 
sancta similiter habetur. His ergo hominibus dim ui- 
mint, magnos exhibent honores; mortuis verb vel templa 
vel monumenta extruunt amplissima, eosque contingere 
ac sepelire maxima fortunes ducunt loco. Audivimus 
fuse dicta et dicenda per interpretem a Mucrelo nostro. 
Insuper sanctum ilium, quern eo loco vidimus, publici- 
tus apprimZ commendari, eum esse hominem sanctum, 
divinum ac integritate prcecipuum; eo quod, necfosmi- 
narum unquam esset, nee puerorum, sed tantummodo 
asellarum concubitor atque mularum. (Peregr. Baum- 
garten, 1. ii. c. i. p. 73.) More of the same land 
concerning these precious saints amongst the 
Turks may be seen in Pietro della Valle, in his 
letter of the 25th of January, 1616. 

Where then are those innate principles of jus- 
tice, piety, gratitude, equity, chastity? Or where 
is that universal consent that assures us there are 
such inbred rules? Murders in duels, when fash- 
ion has made them honourable, are committed 
without remorse of conscience: nay, in many 
places innocence in this case is the greatest ig- 
nominy. And if we look abroad to take a view 
of men as they are, we shall find that they have 
remorse, in one place, for doing or omitting that 
which others, in another place, thmfc they merit 

by. 

10. Men have contrary practical principles. He that 
will carefully peruse the history of mankind, and 
look abroad into the several tribes of men, and 
with indifferency survey their actions, will be 
able to satisfy himself, that there is scarce that 
principle of morality to be named, or rule of vir- 
tue to be thought on, (those only excepted that 
are absolutely necessary to hold society together, 
which commonly too are neglected betwixt dis- 
tinct societies,) which is not, somewhere or other, 
slighted and condemned by the general fashion 
of whole societies of men, governed by practical 
opinions and rules of living quite opposite ta 
others, 

1 1. Whok nations reject several moral rules* Here 
perhaps It will be objected* that it is no argu- 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP. II 

merit that the rule is not known, because it is 
broken. I grant the objection good where men, 
though they transgress, yet disown not the law; 
where fear of shame, censure, or punishment 
carries the mark of some awe it has upon them. 
But it is impossible to conceive that a whole na- 
tion of men should all publicly reject and re- 
nounce what every one of them certainly and 
infallibly knew to be a law; for so they must who 
have it naturally imprinted on their minds. It is 
possible men may sometimes own rules of moral- 
ity which in their private thoughts they do not 
believe to be true, only to keep themselves in 
reputation and esteem amongst those who are 
persuaded of their obligation. But it is not to be 
imagined that a whole society of men should 
publicly and professedly disown and cast off a 
rule which they could not in their own minds 
but be infallibly certain was a law; nor be ignor- 
ant that all men they should have to do with 
knew it to be such: and therefore must every 
one of them apprehend from others all the con- 
tempt and abhorrence due to one who professes 
himself void of humanity: and one who, con- 
founding the known and natural measures of 
right and wrong, cannot but be looked on as the 
professed enemy of their peace and happiness. 
Whatever practical principle is innate, cannot 
but be known to every one to be just and good. 
It is therefore little less than a contradiction to 
suppose, that whole nations of men should, both 
in their professions and practice, unanimously 
and universally give the lie to what, by the most 
invincible evidence, every one of them knew to 
be true, right, and good! This is enough to satisfy 
us that no practical rule which is anywhere uni- 
versally, and with public approbation or allow- 
ance, transgressed, can be supposed innate. 
But I have something further to add in answer 
to this objection. 

t" 12. The generally allowed breach of a rule, proof 
that it is not innate. The breaking of a rule, say 
you, is no argument that it is unknown. I grant 
it: but the generally allowed breach of it anywhere, 
I say, is a proof that it is not innate, For exam- 
ple: let us take any of these rules, which, being 
the most obvious deductions of human reason, 
and comformable to the natural inclination of 
the greatest part of men, fewest people have had 
the impudence to deny or inconsideration to 
doubt of. If any can be thought to be naturally 
imprinted, none, I think, can have a fairer pre- 
tence to be innate than this: "Parents, preserve 
and cherishyour children/* When, therefore, you 
say that this is an innate rule, wiaatdo you naean? 
Either that it is an inaate principle which upon 



107 



all occasions excites and directs the actions of all 
men; or else, that it is a truth which all men 
have imprinted on their minds, and which there- 
fore they know and assent to. But in neither of 
these senses is it innate. First, that it is not a prin- 
ciple which influences all men's actions, is what 
I have proved by the examples before cited: nor 
need we seek so far as Mingrelia or Peru to find 
instances of such as neglect, abuse, nay, and des- 
troy their children; or look on it only as the 
more than brutality of some savage and barbar- 
ous nations, when we remember that it was a 
familiar and uncondemned practice amongst the 
Greeks and Romans to expose, without pity or 
remorse, their innocent infants. Secondly, that it 
is an innate truth, known to all men, is also false. 
For, "Parents preserve your children," is so far 
from an innate truth, that it is no truth at all: it 
being a command, and not a proposition, and so 
not capable of truth or falsehood. To make it 
capable of being assented to as true, it must be 
reduced to some such proposition as this: "It is 
the duty of parents to preserve their children." 
But what duty is, cannot be understood without 
a law; nor a law be known or supposed without 
a lawmaker, or without reward and punishment; 
so that it is impossible that this, or any other, 
practical principle should be innate, i.e. be im- 
printed on the mind as a duty, without suppos- 
ing the ideas of God, of law, of obligation, of 
punishment, of a life after this, innate: for that 
punishment follows not in this life the breach of 
this rule, and consequently that it has not the 
force of a law in countries where the generally 
allowed practice runs counter to it, is in itself 
evident. But these ideas (which must be all of 
them innate, if anything as a duty be so) are so 
far from being innate, that it is not every studi- 
ous or thinking man, much less every one that is 
born, in whom they are to be found clear and 
distinct; and that one of them, which of all others 
seems most likely to be innate, is not so, (I mean 
the idea of God,) I think, in the next chapter, 1 
will appear very evident to any considering man. 

13. y m tn can be ignorant of what is innate, cer- 
tainty is not described by innate principles. From what 
has been said, I think we may safely conclude, 
that whatever practical rule is in any place gen- 
erally and with allowance broken, cannot be 
supposed innate; it being impossible that men 
should, without shame or fear, confidently and 
serenely, break a rule which they could not but 
evidently know that God had set up, and would 
certainly punish the breach of, (which they must, 
if it were innate,) to a degree to make it a very 

*Cbu m 8-17. 



io8 

ill bargain to the transgressor. Without such a 
knowledge as this, a man can never be certain 
that anything is his duty. Ignorance or doubt of 
the law, hopes to escape the knowledge or pow- 
er of the law-maker, or the like, may make men 
give way to a present appetite; but let any one 
see the fault, and the rod by it, and with the 
transgression, a fire ready to punish it; a pleas- 
ure tempting, and the hand of the Almighty vis- 
ibly held up and prepared to take vengeance, 
(for this must be the case where any duty is im- 
printed on the mind,) and then tell me whether 
it be possible for people with such a prospect, 
such a certain knowledge as this, wantonly, and 
without scruple, to offend against a law which 
they carry about them in indelible characters, 
and that stares them in the face whilst they are 
breaking it? Whether men, at the same time that 
they feel in themselves the imprinted edicts of 
an Omnipotent Law-maker, can, with assurance 
and gaiety, slight and trample underfoot his most 
sacred injunctions? And lastly, whether it be 
possible that whilst a man thus openly bids de- 
fiance to this innate law and supreme Lawgiver, 
all the bystanders, yea, even the governors and 
rulers of the people, full of the same sense both 
of the law and Law-maker, should silently con- 
nive, without testifying their dislike or laying the 
least blame on it? Principles of actions indeed 
there are lodged in men's appetites; but these 
are so far from being innate moral principles, 
that if they were left to their full swing they 
would carry men to the overturning of all mo- 
rality. Moral laws are set as a curb "and restraint 
to these exorbitant desires, which they cannot 
be but by rewards and punishments that will 
overbalance the satisfaction any one shall pro- 
pose to himself in the breach of the law. If, there- 
fore, anything be imprinted on the minds of all 
men as a law, all men must have a certain and 
unavoidable knowledge that certain and una- 
voidable punishment will attend the breach of 
it. For if men can be ignorant or doubtful of 
what is innate, innate principles are insisted on, 
and urged to no purpose; truth and certainty 
(the things pretended) are not at all secured by 
them; but men are in the same uncertain float- 
ing estate with as without them. An evident in- 
dubitable knowledge of unavoidable punish- 
ment, great enough to make the transgression 
very ^ineligible, must accompany an innate law; 
unless with an innate law they can suppose an 
innate Gospel too. I would not here be mistaken, 
as if, because I deny an innate law, I thought 
there were laooe but positive laws. There is a 
great deal of difference between am innate law, 



JOHN LOCKE 



BOOK I 



and a law of nature; between something im- 
printed on our minds in their very original, and 
something that we, being ignorant of, may at- 
tain to the knowledge of, by the use and due ap- 
plication of our natural faculties. And I think 
they equally forsake the truth who, running in- 
to contrary extremes, either affirm an innate 
law, or deny that there is a law knowable by the 
light of nature, i.e. without the help of positive 
revelation. 1 

14. Those who maintain innate practical principles 
tell us not what they are. The difference there is 
amongst men in their practical principles is so 
evident that I think I need say no more to 
evince, that it will be impossible to find any in- 
nate moral rules by this mark of general assent; 
and it is enough to make one suspect that the 
supposition of such innate principles is but an 
opinion taken up at pleasure; since those who 
talk so confidently of them are so sparing to tell 
us which they are. This might with justice be ex- 
pected from those men who lay stress upon this 
opinion; and it gives occasion to distrust either 
their knowledge or charity, who, declaring that 
God has imprinted on the minds of men the 
foundations of knowledge and the rules of liv- 
ing, are yet so little favourable to the informa- 
tion of their neighbours, or the quiet of man- 
kind, as not to point out to them which they are, 
in the variety men are distracted with. But, in 
truth, were there any such innate principles there 
would be no need to teach them. Did men find 
such innate propositions stamped on their minds, 
they would easily be able to distinguish them 
from other truths that they afterwards learned 
and deduced from them; and there would be 
nothing more easy than to know what, and how 
many, they were. There could be no more doubt 
about their number than there is about the num- 
ber of our fingers; and it is like then every sys- 
tem would be ready to give them us by tale. But 
since nobody, that I know, has ventured yet to 
give a catalogue of them, they cannot blame 
those who doubt of these innate principles; since 
even they who require men to believe that there 
are such innate propositions, do not tell us what 
they are. It is easy to foresee, that if different 
men of different sects should go about to give us 
a list of those innate practical principles, they 
would set down only such as suited their distinct 
hypotheses, and were fit to support the doctrines 
of their particular schools or churches; a plain 
evidence that there are no such innate truths. 
Nay, a great part of men are so for from finding 
any such innate moral principles in themselves, 
Bk, II. ch, xxviii, 7, 8. 



CHAP. II 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



109 



that, by denying freedom to mankind, and there- 
by making men no other than bare machines, 
they take away not only innate, but all moral 
rules whatsoever, and leave not a possibility to be- 
lieve any such, to those who cannot conceive how 
anything can be capable of a law that is not a free 
agent. And upon that ground they must necessa- 
rily reject all principles of virtue, who cannot put 
morality and mechanism together, which are not 
very easy to be reconciled or made consistent. 

' 1 5. LordHerbert *s innate principles examined. When 
I had written this, being informed that my Lord 
Herbert had, in his book De Veritate, assigned 
these innate principles, I presently consulted him, 
hoping to find in a man of so great parts, some- 
thing that might satisfy me in this point, and 
put an end to my inquiry. In his chapter De In- 
stinctu Naturali^ p. 72, ed. 1656, 1 met with these 
six marks of his Notitia Communes: i. Prioritas. 
2. Independently 3. Universalitas. 4. Certitudo. 5. 
Necessitas, i.e. as he explains it,faciunt adhominis 
conservationem. 6. Modus conformations, i.e. Assen- 
sus nulld interpositd mord. And at the latter end of 
his little treatise De Religione Laid, he says this of 
these innate principles: Adeo ut nan uniuscujusvis 
religionis confinio arctentur qua ubique vigent verito- 
tes. Stint enim in ipsd mente ccditus descripta, nullis- 
que traditionibus, sive scriptis, sive non scriptis, ob- 
noxiB, p. 3. And Veritates nostrce catholics, qua 
tanquam indubia Dei emata inforo interion descript<R. 
Thus, having given the marks of the innate 
principles or common notions, and asserted their 
being imprinted on the minds of men by the 
hand of God, he proceeds to set them down, and 
they are these: i. Esse aliquod supremum numen. 
2. Numen illud coli debere. 3. Virtutem cum pietate 
conjunctam optimam esse rationem cult&s divini. 4. Re- 
sipiscendum esse dpeccatis. 5. Dari pr&mium vel p&- 
nam post hanc vitam transactam. Though I allow 
these to be clear truths, and such as, if rightly 
explained, a rational creature can hardly avoid 
giving his assent to, yet I think he is far from 
proving them innate impressions in faro interion 
descriptor. For I must take leave to observe: 

1 6. These Jive either not all, or more than all, if 
there are any. First, that these five propositions 
are either not all, or more than all, those com- 
mon notions written on our minds by the finger 
of God; if it were reasonable to believe any at 
all to be so written. Since there are other prop- 
ositions which, even by his own rules, have as 
just a pretence to such an original, and may be 
as well admitted for innate principles, as at least 
some of these five he enumerates, viz. "Do as 
thou wouldst be done unto." And perhaps some 
huiadreds of others, when well considered. 



1 7. The supposed marks wanting. Secondly, that 
all his marks are not to be found in each of his 
five propositions, viz. his first, second, and third 
marks agree perfectly to neither of them; and 
the first, second, third, fourth, and sixth marks 
agree but ill to his third, fourth, and fifth prop- 
ositions. For, besides that we are assured from 
history of many men, nay whole nations, who 
doubt or disbelieve some or all of them, I can- 
not see how the third, viz. "That virtue joined 
with piety is the best worship of God," can be an 
innate principle, when the name or sound virtue, 
is so hard to be understood; liable to so much 
uncertainty in its signification; and the thing it 
stands for so much contended about and diffi- 
cult to be known. And therefore this cannot be 
but a very uncertain rule of human practice, 
and serve but very little to the conduct of our 
lives, and is therefore very unfit to be assigned 
as an innate practical principle. 

1 8. Of little use if they were innate. For let us 
consider this proposition as to its meaning, (for 
it is the sense, and not sound, that is and must 
be the principle or common notion,) viz. "Vir- 
tue is the best worship of God," i.e. is most ac- 
ceptable to him; which, if virtue be taken, as 
most commonly it is, for those actions which, 
according to the different opinions of several 
countries, are accounted laudable, will be a prop- 
osition so far from being certain, that it will not 
be true. If virtue be taken for actions conform- 
able to God's will, or to the rule prescribed by 
God which is the true and only measure of 
virtue when virtue is used to signify what is in 
its own nature right and good then this prop- 
osition, "That virtue is the best worship of God," 
will be most true and certain, but of very little 
use hi human life: since it will amount to no 
more but this, viz. "That God is pleased with 
the doing of what he commands;" which a man 
may certainly know to be true, without know- 
ing what it is that God doth command; and so 
be as far from any rule or principle of his actions 
as he was before. And I think very few will take 
a proposition which amounts to no more than 
this, viz. "That God is pleased with the doing of 
what he himself commands," for an innate mor- 
al principle written on the minds of all men, 
(however true and certain it may be,) since it 
teaches so little. Whosoever does so will have 
reason to think hundreds of propositions innate 
principles; since there are many which have as 
good a title as this to be received for such, which 
nobody yet ever put into that rank of innate 
principles. 

19. Scare* possible that God should engrave princi- 



no 

pies in words of uncertain meaning. Nor is the fourth 
propbsition(viz. c< Men must repent of their sins' 5 ) 
much more instructive, till what those actions 
are that are meant by sins be set down. For the 
word peccata^ or sins, being put, as it usually is, 
to signify in general ill actions that will draw 
punishment upon the doers, what great princi- 
ple of morality can that be to tell us we should 
be sorry, and cease to do that which will bring 
mischief upon us; without knowing what those 
particular actions are that will do so? Indeed 
this is a very true proposition, and fit to be in- 
cated on and received by those who are sup- 
posed to have been taught what actions in all 
kinds are sins: but neither this nor the former 
can be imagined to be innate principles; nor to 
be of any use if they were innate, unless the par- 
ticular measures and bounds of all virtues and 
vices were engraven in men's minds, and were 
innate principles also, which I think is very much 
to be doubted. And, therefore, I imagine, it will 
scarcely seem possible that God should engrave 
principles in men's minds, in words of uncertain 
signification, such as virtues and sins, which 
amongst different men stand for different things : 
nay, it cannot be supposed to be in words at all, 
which, being in most of these principles very 
general, names, cannot be understood but by 
knowing the particulars comprehended under 
them. And in the practical instances, the meas- 
ures must be taken from the knowledge of the 
actions themselves, and the rules of them, ab- 
stractedfrom words, and antecedent to theknowl- 
edge of names; which rules a man must know, 
what language soever he chance to learn, wheth- 
er English or Japan, or if he should learn no 
language at all, or never should understand the 
use of words, as happens in the case of dumb and 
deaf men. When it shall be made out that men 
ignorant of words, or untaught by the laws and 
customs of their country, know that it is part of 
the worship of God, not to kill another man; not 
to know more women than one; not to procure 
abortion; not to expose their children; not to 
take from another what is his, though we want 
it oarseives, but on the contrary, relieve and 
supply Ms wants; and whenever we have done 
the contrary we ought to repent, be sorry, and 
resolve to do sa BO more; when I say, all men 
shall be proved actually to know and allow all 
these and a thousand other such rules, all of 
which coioe *Hader these two general words made 
use of above, viz. mrte&s & pec&tta, virtues and 
sins, there wil &e mre reason i&r adniittmg 



JOHN LOCKE 



BOOK I 

(were there any in moral principles) to truths, 
the knowledge whereof may be attained other- 
wise, would scarce prove them to be innate; 
which is all I contend for. 

20. Objection, "innate principles may be corrupt- 
ed" answered. Nor will it be of much moment 
here to offer that very ready but not very mate- 
rial answer, viz. that the innate principles of 
morality may, by education, and custom, and 
the general opinion of those amongst whom we 
converse, be darkened, and at last quite worn 
out of the minds of men. Which assertion of 
theirs, if true, quite takes away the argument of 
universal consent, by which this opinion of in- 
nate principles is endeavoured to be proved; un- 
less those men will think it reasonable that their 
private persuasions, or that of their party, should 
pass for universal consent; a thing not unfre- 
quently done, when men, presuming themselves 
to be the only masters of right reason, cast by 
the votes and opinions of the rest of mankind as 
not worthy the reckoning. And then their argu- 
ment stands thus: "The principles which all 
mankind allow for true, are innate; those that 
men of right reason admit, are the principles al- 
lowed by all mankind; we, and those of our 
mind, are men of reason; therefore, we agree- 
ing, our principles are innate;" which is a very 
pretty way of arguing, and a short cut to infalli- 
bility. For otherwise it will be very hard to un- 
derstand how there be some principles which 
all men do acknowledge and agree in; and yet 
there are none of those principles which are not, 
by depraved custom and ill education, blotted 
out of the minds of many men: which is to say, 
that all men admit, but yet many men do deny 
and dissent from them. And indeed the supposi- 
tion of such first principles will serve us to very 
little purpose; and we shall be as much at a loss 
with as without them, if they may, by any hu- 
man power such as the will of our teachers, or 
opinions of our companions be altered or lost 
in us: and notwithstanding all this boast of first 
principles and innate light, we shall be as much 
in the dark and uncertainty as if there were no 
such thing at all: it being all one to have no 
rule, and one that will warp any way; or amongst 
various and contrary rules, not to know which 
is the right. But concerning innate principles, I 
desire these men to say, whether they can or 
cannot, by education and custom, be blurred 
blotted out; if they cannot, we must find 
diem in all mankind alike, and they mt&t be 
islear in everybody; and If tkey may ssfler vark 
ation from adventitious notions, we must tlueik 
find tJaern dearest and most perspicuous near- : 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP. II 

est the fountain, in children and illiterate peo- 
ple, who have received least impression from 
foreign opinions. Let them take which side they 
please, they will certainly find it inconsistent 
with visible matter of fact and daily observation. 
QI. Contrary principles in the world. I easily grant 
that there are great numbers of opinions which, 
by men of different countries., educations, and 
tempers, are received and embraced as first and 
unquestionable principles; many whereof, both 
for their absurdity as well as oppositions to one 
another, it is impossible should be true. But yet 
all those propositions, how remote soever from 
reason, are so sacred somewhere or other, that 
men even of good understanding in other mat- 
ters, will sooner part with their lives, and what- 
ever is dearest to them, than suffer themselves 
to doubt, or others to question, the truth of them. 

22. How men commonly come by their principles. 
This, however strange it may seem, is that which 
every day's experience confirms; and will not, 
perhaps, appear so wonderful, if we consider 
the ways and steps by which it is brought about; 
and how really it may come to pass, that doc- 
trines that have been derived from no better 
original than the superstition of a nurse, or the 
authority of an old woman, may, by length of 
time and consent of neighbours, grow up to the 
dignity of principles in religion or morality. For 
such, who are careful (as they call it) to princi- 
ple children well, (and few there be who have 
not a set of those principles for them, which they 
believe in,) instil into the unwary, and as yet 
unprejudiced, understanding, (for white paper 
receives any characters,) those doctrines they 
would have them retain and profess.These be- 
ing taught them as soon as they have any appre- 
hension; and still as they grow up confirmed to 
them, either by the open profession or tacit con- 
sent of all they have to do with; or at least by 
those of whose wisdom, knowledge, and piety 
they have an opinion, who never suffer those 
propositions to be otherwise mentioned but as 
the basis and foundation on which they build 
their religion and manners, come, by these means, 
to have the reputation of unquestionable, self- 
evident, and innate truths. 

23. Principles supposed innate because we do not re- 
member when we began to hold them. To which we 
may add, that wfeen men so instructed are grown 
up, and reflect on their own min<is, they cannot 
find anything more ancient there than those 
opinions, which were taught them before their 
mejpaory bega% to keep a register of their ac- 
tiqns, or 4ate tte time when any new thing ap- 
pe^ed fa themj; and Aerefore make no scruple 



in 

to conclude, that those propositions of whose 
knowledge they can find in themselves no origi- 
nal, were certainly the impress of God and na- 
ture upon their minds, and not taught them by 
any one else. These they entertain and submit 
to, as many do to their parents with veneration 3 - 
not because it is natural; nor do children do it 
where they are not so taught; but because, hav- 
ing been always so educated, and having no re- 
membrance of the beginning of this respect, they 
think it is natural. 

24. How such principles come to be held. This will 
appear very likely, and almost unavoidable to 
come to pass, if we consider the nature of man- 
kind and the constitution of human affairs; 
wherein most men cannot live without employ- 
ing their time hi the daily labours of their call- 
ings; nor be at quiet in their minds without some 
foundation or principle to rest their thoughts on. 
There is scarcely any one so floating and super- 
ficial in his understanding, who hath not some 
reverenced propositions, which are to him the 
principles on which he bottoms his reasonings, 
and by which he judge th of truth and falsehood, 
right and wrong; which some, wanting skill and 
leisure, and others the inclination, and some 
being taught that they ought not to examine, 
there are few to be found who are not exposed 
by their ignorance, laziness, education, or pre- 
cipitancy, to take them upon trust. 

25. Further explained. This is evidently the case 
of all children and young folk; and custom, a 
greater power than nature, seldomfailing to make 
them worship for divine what she hath inured 
them to bow their minds and submit their un- 
derstandings to, it is no wonder that grown men, 
either perplexed in the necessary affairs of life, 
or hot in the pursuit of pleasures, should not seri- 
ously sit down to examine their own tenets; es- 
pecially when one of their principles is, that prin- 
ciples ought not to be questioned. 1 And had. men 
leisure, parts, and will, who is there almost that 
dare stiake the foundations of all his past thoughts 
and actions, and endure to bring upon himself 
the shame of having been a long time wholly in 
mistake and error? Who is there hardy enough 
to contend with the reproach which is every- 
where prepared for those who dare venture to 
dissent from the received opinions of their coun- 
try or party? And where is the man to be found 
that can patiently prepare himself to bear the 
name of whimsical, sceptical, or atheist; which 
he is sure to meet with, who does in the least 
scruple any of the common opinions? And he 
will be much more afraid to question those prin- 



112 

ciples, when he shall think them, as most men 
do, the standards set up by God in his mind, to 
be the rule and touchstone of all other opinions. 
And what can hinder him from thinking them 
sacred, when he finds them the earliest of all his 
own thoughts, and the most reverenced by 
others? 

26. A worship of idols. It is easy to imagine how, 
by these means, it comes to pass than men wor- 
ship the idols that have been set up in their 
minds; 1 grow fond of the notions they have been 
long acquainted with there; and stamp the char- 
acters of divinity upon absurdities and errors; 
become zealous votaries to bulls and monkeys, 
and contend too, fight, and die in defence of 
their opinions. Dum solos credit habendos esse deos, 
quos ipse colit. For, since the reasoning faculties 
of the soul, which are almost constantly, though 
not always warily nor wisely employed, would 
not know how to move, for want of a founda- 
tion and footing, in most men, who through laz- 
iness or avocation do not, or for want of time, or 
true helps, or for other causes, cannot penetrate 
into the principles of knowledge, and trace truth 
to its fountain and original, it is natural for them, 
and almost unavoidable, to take up with some 
borrowed principles; which being reputed and 
presumed to be the evident proofs of other things, 
are thought not to need any other proof them- 
selves. Whoever shall receive any of these into 
his mind, and entertain them there with the rev- 
erence usually paid to principles, never ventur- 
ing to examine them, but accustoming himself 
to believe them, because they are to be believed, 
may take up, from his education and the fash- 
ions of his country, any absurdity for innate prin- 
ciples; and by long poring on the same objects, 
so dim his sight as to take monsters lodged in his 
own brain for the images of the Deity, and the 
workmanship of his hands. 

27. Principles must be examined. By this progress, 
how many there are who arrive at principles 
which they believe innate may be easily ob- 
served, in the variety of opposite principles held 
and contended for by all sorts and degrees of 
men. And he that shall deny this to be the meth- 
od wherein most men proceed to the assurance 
they have of the truth and evidence of then* prin- 
ciples, will perhaps find it a hard matter any 
other way to account for the contrary tenets, 
which are firmly believed, confidently asserted, 
and which great numbers are ready at any time 
to seal with their blood. And, indeed, if it be the 
privilege ol innate principles to be received upon 
their own authority, without exarnmatlon, I 

1 Cf. Bacon, Mowm Qrgm&ii^ ii'apliJ 23. 



JOHN LOCKE 



BOOK I 



know not what may not be believed, or how any 
one's principles can be questioned. If they may 
and ought to be examined and tried, I desire to 
know how first and innate principles can be tried; 
or at least it is reasonable to demand the marks 
and characters whereby the genuine innate prin- 
ciples may be distinguished from others: that so, 
amidst the great variety of pretenders, I may be 
kept from mistakes in so material a point as this. 
When this is done, I shall be ready to embrace 
such welcome and useful propositions; and till 
then I may with modesty doubt; since I fear 
universal consent, which is the only one pro- 
duced, will scarcely prove a sufficient mark to 
direct my choice, and assure me of any innate 
principles. 

From what has been said, I think it past doubt, 
that there are no practical principles wherein 
all men agree; and therefore none innate. 

Chap. III. Other considerations concerning In- 
nate Principles, both Speculative and Practical 

1 . Principles not innate, unless their ideas be innate. 
Had those who would persuade us that there 
are innate principles not taken them together in 
gross, but considered separately the parts out of 
which those propositions are made, they would 
not, perhaps, have been so forward to believe 
they were innate. Since, if the ideas which made 
up those truths were not, it was impossible that 
the propositions made up of them should be in- 
nate, or our knowledge of them be born with us. 
For, if the ideas be not innate, there was a time 
when the mind was without those principles; and 
then they will not be innate, but be derived from 
some other original. For, where the ideas them- 
selves are not, there can be no knowledge, no as- 
sent, no mental or verbal propositions about 
them. 

2. Ideas, especially those belonging to principles, not 
born with children. If we will attentively consider 
new-born children, we shall have little reason to 
think that they bring many ideas into the world 
with them. For, bating perhaps some faint ideas 
of hunger, and thirst, and warmth, and some 
pains, which they may have felt in the womb, 
there is not the least appearance of any settled 
ideas at all in them; especially of ideas answering 
the terms which make up those universal propositions 
that are esteemed innate principles. One may perceive 
how, by degrees, afterwards, ideas come into 

; their minds ; and that they get no more, nor other, 
(than what experience, and the observation of 
'^hings that come in their way, furnish them with; 
which might be enough to satisfy us that they 
are not original characters stamped on the mind. 



CHAP. Ill 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



3. "Impossibility" and "identity" not innate ideas. 
"It is impossible for the same thingto be, and not 
to be," is certainly (if there be any such) an in- 
nate principle. But can any one think, or will any 
one say, that "impossibility" and "identity" are 
two innate ideas? Are they such as all mankind 
have, and bring into the world with them? And 
are they those which are the first in children, and 
antecedent to all acquired ones? If they are in- 
nate, they must needs be so. Hath a child an 
idea of impossibility and identity, before it has 
of white or black, sweet or bitter? And is it 
from the knowledge of this principle that it con- 
cludes, that wormwood rubbed on the nipple 
hath not the same taste that it used to receive 
from thence? Is it the actual knowledge of im- 
possibile est idem esse, et non esse, that makes a child 
distinguish between its mother and a stranger; 
or that makes it fond of the one and flee the 
other? Or does the mind regulate itself and its 
assent by ideas that it never yet had? Or the 
understanding draw conclusions from princi- 
ples which it never yet knew or understood? 
The names impossibility and identity stand for two 
ideas, so far from being innate, or born with 
us, that I think it requires great care and at- 
tention to form them right in our understand- 
ings. They are so far from being brought into 
the world with us, so remote from the thoughts 
of infancy and childhood, that I believe, upon 
examination it will be found that many grown 
men want them. 

4. "Identity," an idea not innate. If identity (to in- 
stance that alone) be a native impression, and 
consequently so clear and obvious to us that we 
must needs know it even from our cradles, I would 
gladly be resolved by any one of seven, or seven- 
ty years old, whether a man, being a creature 
consisting of soul and body, be the same man 
when his body is changed? Whether Euphorbus 
and Pythagoras, having had the same soul, were 
the same men, though they lived several ages 
asunder? 1 Nay, whether the cock too, which had 
the same soul, were not the same with both of 
them? Whereby, perhaps, it will appear that our 
idea of sameness is not so settled and clear as to 
deserve to be thought innate in us. For if those 
innate ideas are not clear and distinct, so as to 
be universally known and naturally agreed on, 
they cannot be subjects of universal and un- 
doubted truths, but will be the unavoidable oc- 
casion of perpetual uncertainty. For, I suppose 
every one ? s idea of identity will not be the same 
that Pythagoras and thousands of his followers 
have. And which then shall be true? Which in- 

Bfc. IL ch. xxvii 



nate? Or are there two different ideas of identity, 
both innate? 

5. What makes the same man? Nor let any one 
think that the questions I have here proposed 
about the identity of man are bare empty specu- 
lations; which, if they were, would be enough to 
show, that there was in the understandings of 
men no innate idea of identity. He that shall with 
a little attention reflect on the resurrection, and 
consider that divine justice will bring to judg- 
ment, at the last day, the very same persons, to 
be happy or miserable in the other, who did well 
or ill in this life, will find it perhaps not easy to 
resolve with himself, what makes the same man, 
or wherein identity consists; and will not be for- 
ward to think he, and every one, even children 
themselves, have naturally a clear idea of it. 2 

6. Whole and part, not innate ideas. Let us exam- 
ine that principle of mathematics, viz. that the 
whole is bigger than a part. This, I take it, is reck- 
oned amongst innate principles. I am sure it has 
as good a title as any to be thought so; which 
yet nobody can think it to be, when he considers 
[that] the ideas it comprehends in it, whole and 
part, are perfectly relative; but the positive ideas 
to which they properly and immediately belong 
are extension and number, of which alone whole 
and part are relations. So that if whole and part 
are innate ideas, extension and number must be 
so too; it being impossible to have an idea of a 
relation, without having any at all of the thing 
to which it belongs, and in which it is founded. 
Now, whether the minds of men have naturally 
imprinted on them the ideas of extension and 
number, I leave to be considered by those who 
are the patrons of innate principles. 8 

7. Idea of worship not innate. That God is to be war- 
skipped^ is, without doubt, as great a truth as any 
that can enter into the mind of man, and de- 
serves the first place amongst all practical prin- 
ciples. But yet it can by no means be thought in- 
nate, unless the ideas of God and worship are in- 
nate. That the idea the term worship stands for 
is not in the understanding of children, and a 
character stamped on the mind in its first origi- 
nal, I think will be easily granted, by any one 
that considers how few there be amongst grown 
men who have a clear and distinct notion of it. 
And, I suppose, there cannot be anything more 
ridiculous than to say, that children have this 
practical principle innate, *That God is to be 
worshipped," and yet that they know not what 
that worship of God is, which is their duty. But 
to pass by this. 

*Cf. Bk. II. ch. xxviL 

*Cf. Bk. II. ch. v and vii. 7. 



JOHN LOCKE 



8. Idea of God not innate. If any idea can be im- 
agined innate, the idea of God may, of all others, 1 
for many reasons, be thought so; since it is hard 
to conceive how there should be innate moral 
principles, without an innate idea of a Deity. 
Without a notion of a law-maker, it is impossible 
to have a notion of a law, and an obligation to 
observe it. Besides the atheists taken notice of 
amongst the ancients, 2 and left branded upon 
the records of history, hath not navigation dis- 
covered, in these later ages, whole nations, at 
the bay of Soldania, 3 in Brazil, 4 [ 5 in Boranday,] 
and in the Caribbee islands, &c., amongst whom 
there was to be found no notion of a God, no re- 
ligion? Nicholaus del Techo, in Literis ex Para- 
quaria, de Caiguarum Conversions, has these words: 
Reperi earn gentem mdlum nomen habere quod Deum, 
et hominis animam significet; mdla sacra habet, nulla 
idola. These are instances of nations where un- 
cultivated nature has been left to itself, without 
the help of letters and discipline, and the im- 
provements of arts and sciences. But there are 
others to be found who have enjoyed these in a 
very great measure, who yet, for want of a due 
application of their thoughts this way, want the 
idea and knowledge of God. It will, I doubt not, 
be a surprise to others, as it was to me, to find 
the Siamites of this number. But for this, let them 
consult the King of France's late envoy thither, 6 
who gives no better account of the Chinese them- 
selves, And if we will not believe La Loubere, 
the missionaries of China, even the Jesuits them- 
selves, the great encomiasts of the Chinese, do all 
to a man agree, and will convince us, that the sect 
of the literati, or learned, keeping to the old reli- 
gion of China, and the ruling party there, are all of 
them atheists. Vid. Navarette, in the Collection of 
Voyages, vol. L, and Historia Cultus Sinensium. And 
perhaps, if we should with attention mind the 
lives and discourses of people not so far off, we 
should have too much reason to fear, that many, 
in more civilized countries, have no very strong 
and dear impressions of a Dei ty upon their minds, 
and that the complaints of atheism made from 
tbe pulpit are not without reason. And though 
only same profligate wretches own it too bare- 
facedly BOW; yet perhaps we should hear more 

*!&. XI. dat.CT. 2, i2;xxiiL 21,33-36; 
Bk. IV,<fc.x. 

a Cf.Bk, IV.ch. x. 

*Roe^ in Thevenot's Relation de divers Voyages 
Cttrtewc; 

lef Ler'. r6. 

Vqwg$ to the Mogul, - 



*93|aire; Tcary, Vqwg$ to the Mogul, -$ 
and yfe; Qvlofton ftf. (Oviagton> Voyage to &urat 
in 16%) 

La Loub&re, Bfc &$&&& & <S&M4foi& L c. 9, 



BOOK I 

than we do of it from others, did not the fear of 
the magistrate's sword, or their neighbour's cen- 
sure, tie up people's tongues; which, were the 
apprehensions of punishment or shame taken 
away, would as openly proclaim their atheism 
as their lives do. 7 

9. The name of God not universal or obscure in mean- 
ing. But had all mankind everywhere a notion 
of a God, (whereof yet history tells us the con- 
trary,) it would not from thence follow, that the 
idea of him was innate. For, though no nation 
were to be found without a name, and some few 
dark notions of him, 8 yet that would not prove 
them to be natural impressions on the mind; no 
more than the names of fire, or the sun, heat, or 
number, do prove the ideas they stand for to be 
innate; because the names of those things, and 
the ideas of them, are so universally received - 
and known amongst mankind. Nor, on the con- 
trary, is the want of such a name, or the absence 
of such a notion out of men's minds, any argu- 
ment against the being of a God; any more than 
it would be a proof that there was no loadstone 
in the world, because a great part of mankind 
had neither a notion of any such thing nor a 
name for it; or be any show of argument to prove 
that there are no distinct and various species of 
angels, or intelligent beings above us, because 
we have no ideas of such distinct species, or names 
for them. For, men being furnished with words, 
by the common language of their own countries, 
can scarce avoid having some kind of ideas of 
those things whose names those they converse 
with have occasion frequently to mention to them. 
And if they carry with it the notion of excellency, 
greatness, or something extraordinary; if appre- 
hension and concernment accompany it; if the 
fear of absolute and irresistible power set it on 
upon the mind, the idea is likely to sink the 
deeper, and spread the further; especially if it 
be such an idea as is agreeable to the common 
light of reason, 9 and naturally deducible from 
every part of our knowledge, as that of a God is. 
For the visible marks of extraordinary wisdom 
and power appear so plainly in all the works of 
the creation, that a rational creaturej who will 
but seriously reflect on them, cannot miss the 
discovery of a Deity. And the influence that the 
discovery of such a Being must necessarily have 
on the minds of all that have but once heard of 
it is so great, and carries such a weight of thought 

7 Cf. Locke, Third Letter to Stillingfleet, Jx 447. 

Cf. Bk. II. ch. xxiii 33r-35- , 

9 fc 'Common light of reason" is elsewhere intui- 
tion" (Bk. IV. ch. it i), "natural revelation" 
(Bk. IV. ch. xix. 4), antl *^thff candle of the Lord 
set up by God Hinaself in men%mibds^ (chl iE S?o), 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP, in 

and communication with it, that it seems stranger 
to me that a whole nation of men should be any- 
where found so brutish as to want the notion of 
a God, than that they should be without any no- 
tion of numbers, or fire. 

10. Ideas of God and idea of fire. The name of 
God being once mentioned in any part of the 
world, to express a superior, powerful, wise, in- 
visible Being, the suitableness of such a notion 
to the principles of common reason, and the in- 
terest men will always have to mention it often, 
must necessarily spread it far and wide; and con- 
tinue it down to all generations: though yet the 
general reception of this name, and some imper- 
fect and unsteady notions conveyed thereby to 
the unthinking part of mankind, prove not the 
idea to be innate; but only that they who made 
the discovery had made a right use of their rea- 
son, thought maturely of the causes of things, 
and traced them to their original; from whom 
other less considering people having once re- 
ceived so important a notion, it could not easily 
be lost again. 

1 1. Idea of God not innate. This is all could be 
inferred from the notion of a God, were it to be 
found universally in all the tribes of mankind, 
and generally acknowledged, by men grown to 
maturity in all countries. For the generality of 
the acknowledging of a God, as I imagine, is ex- 
tended no further than that; which, if it be suffi- 
cient to prove the idea of God innate, will as 
well prove the idea of fire innate; since I think 
it may be truly said, that there is not a person in 
the world who has a notion of a God, who has 
not also the idea of fire. I doubt not but if a col- 
ony of. young children should be placed in an 
island where no fire was, they would certainly 
neither have any notion of such a thing, nor name 
for it, how generally soever it were received and 
known in all the world besides; and perhaps too 
their apprehensions would be as far removed 
from any name, or notion, of a God, till some 
one amongst them had employed his thoughts 
to inquire into the constitution and causes of 
things, which would easily lead him to the no- 
tion of a God; which having once taught to oth- 
ers, reason, and the natural propensity of their 
own th'oughts, would afterwards propagate, and 
continue amongst them. 

12. Suitable to Cva^s goodness, that all men should 
have an idea of Him> therefore naturally imprinted by 
Him, answered., Indeed it is urged, that it is suit- 
able to the goodness of God, to Imprint upon 
the minds of men characters and notions of him- 
self, aBd not to leave them in the dark aaad doubt 
in so grand a concernment; and also, by that 



means, to secure to himself the homage and ven- 
eration due from so intelligent a creature as man ; 
and therefore he has done it. 

This argument, if it be of any force, will prove 
much more than those who use it in this case ex- 
pect from it. For, if we may conclude that God 
hath done for men all that men shall judge is 
best for them, because it is suitable to his good- 
ness so to do, it will prove, not only that God 
has imprinted on the minds of men an idea of 
himself, but that he hath plainly stamped there, 
in fair characters, all that men ought to know 
or believe of him; all that they ought to do in obe- 
dience to his will; and that he hath given them 
a will and affections conformable to it. This, no 
doubt, every one will think better for men, than 
that they should, in the dark, grope after knowl- 
edge, as St. Paul tells us all nations did after God 
(Acts 17. 27); than that their wills should clash 
with their understandings, and their appetites 
cross their duty. The Romanists say it is best for 
men, and so suitable to the goodness of God, 
that there should be an infallible judge of con- 
troversies on earth; and therefore there is one. 
And I, by the same reason, say it is better for 
men that every man himself should be infallible. 
I leave them to consider, whether, by the force 
of this argument, they shall think that every man 
is so. I think it a very good argument to say, 
the infinitely wise God hath made it so; and 
therefore it is best. But it seems to me a little too 
much confidence of our own wisdom to say, 
"I think it best; and therefore God hath made it 
so." And in the matter in hand, it will be in vain 
to argue from such a topic, that God hath done 
so, when certain experience shows us that he 
hath not. But the goodness of God hath not been 
wanting to men, without such original impres- 
sions of knowledge or ideas stamped on the mind; 
since he hath furnished man with those facul- 
ties which will serve for the sufficient discovery 
of all things requisite to the end of such a being; 
and I doubt not but to show, that a man, by the 
right use of his natural abilities, may, without 
any innate principles, attain a knowledge of a 
God, and other things that concern him. God 
having endued man with those faculties of knowl- 
edge which he hath, was no more obliged by his 
goodness to plant those innate notions in his 
mind, than that, having givenhim reason, hands, 
and materials, he should build him bridges or 
houses, which some people in the world, how- 
ever of good parts, do either totally want, or are 
but ill provided of, as well as others are wholly 
without ideas of God and principles of morality, 
or at kast have but very ill ones; the reason in 



JOHN LOCKE 



BOOK I 



both cases, being, that they never employed their 
parts, faculties, and powers industriously that 
way, but contented themselves with the opin- 
ions, fashions, and things of their country, as 
they found them, without looking any further. 
Had you or I been born at the Bay of Soldania, 
possibly our thoughts and notions had not ex- 
ceeded those brutish ones of the Hottentots that 
inhabit there. And had the Virginia king Apo- 
chancana been educated in England, he had 
been perhaps as knowing a divine, and as good 
a mathematician as any in it; the difference be- 
tween him and a more improved Englishman 
lying barely in this, that the exercise of his facul- 
ties was bounded within the ways, modes, and 
notions of his own country, and never directed 
to any other or further inquiries. And if he had 
not any idea of a God, it was only because he 
pursued not those thoughts that would have led 
him to it. 

<; 13. Ideas of God various in different men. I grant 
that if there were any ideas to be found imprinted 
on the minds of men, we have reason to expect 
it should be the notion of his Maker, as a mark 
God set on his own workmanship, to mind man 
of his dependence and duty; and that herein 
should appear the first instances of human knowl- 
edge. But how late is it before any such notion is 
discoverable in children? And when we find it 
there, how much more does it resemble the opin- 
ion and notion of the teacher, than represent the 
true God? He that shall observe in children the 
progress whereby their minds attain the knowl- 
edge they have, will think that the objects they 
do first and most familiarly converse with are 
those that make the first impressions on their 
understandings; nor will he find the least foot- 
steps of any other. It is easy to take notice how 
their thoughts enlarge themselves, only as they 
come to be acquainted with a greater variety of 
sensible objects; to retain the ideas of them in 
their memories; and to get the skill to compound 
and enlarge them, and several ways put them 
together. How, by these means, they come to 
frame in their minds an idea men have of a De- 
ity, I shall hereafter show. 1 

1 4. Contrary and inconsistent ideas of God under the 
same name. Can it be thought that the ideas men 
have of God are the characters and marks of him- 
self engraven in their minds by his own finger, 
when we see that, in the same country, under 
one and the same name, men have far different, 
nay often contrary and inconsistent ideas and 
co^K^ptiomtjf him? Their agreeing in a name,or 
sound, will scarce prove an innate notion of him. 

*See Bk. IL ci*. mm. | 33-36; Bk. IV. ch. x. 



15. Gross ideas of God. What true or tolerable 
notion of a Deity could they have, who acknowl- 
edged and worshipped hundreds? Every deity 
that they owned above one was an infallible evi- 
dence of their ignorance of Him, and a proof 
that they had no true notion of God, where unity, 
infinity, and eternity were excluded. To which, 
if we add their gross conceptions of corporeity, 
expressed in their images and representations of 
their deities; the amours, marriages, copulations, 
lusts, quarrels, and other mean qualities attrib- 
uted by them to their gods; we shall have little 
reason to think that the heathen world, i.e. the 
greatest part of mankind, had such ideas of God 
in their minds as he himself, out of care that 
they should not be mistaken about him, was au- 
thor of. And this universality of consent, so much 
argued, if it prove any native impressions, it will 
be only this: that God imprinted on the minds 
of all men speaking the same language, a name 
for himself, but not any idea; since those people 
who agreed in the name, had, at the same time, 
far different apprehensions about the thing sig- 
nified. If they say that the variety of deities wor- 
shipped by the heathen world were but figura- 
tive ways of expressing the several attributes of 
that incomprehensible Being, or several parts of 
his providence, I answer: what they might be in 
the original I will not here inquire; but that 
they were so in the thoughts of the vulgar I think 
nobody will affirm. And he that will consult the 
voyage of the Bishop of Beryte, c. 13, (not to 
mention other testimonies,) will find that the the- 
ology of the Siamites professedly owns a plurali- 
ty of gods: or, as the Abbe de Choisy more ju- 
diciously remarks in his Journal du Voyage de <Siam s 
|^-, it consists properly in acknowledging no 
God at all. 

1 6. Idea of God not innate although wise men of all 
nations come to have it. If it be said, that wise men 
of all nations came to have true conceptions of 
the unity and infinity of the Deity, I grant it. But 
then this, 

First, excludes universality of consent in any- 
thing but the name; for those wise men being 
very few, perhaps one of a thousand, this uni- 
versality is very narrow. 

Secondly, it seems to me plainly to prove, that 
the truest and best notions men have of God 2 
were not imprinted, but acquired by thought 
and meditation, and a right use of their facul- 
ties: since the wise and considerate men of the 
world, by aright and careful employment of their 
thoughts and reason, attained true notions in this 
as well as other things; wMlst the lazy and in- 

*CL Bk, IV. eh, x. 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP. Ill 

considerate part of men, making far the greater 
number, took up their notions by chance, from 
common tradition and vulgar conceptions, with- 
out much beating their heads about them. And 
if it be a reason to think the notion of God in- 
. nate, because all wise men had it, virtue too 
must be thought innate; for that also wise men 
have always had. 

1 7. Odd, low, and pitiful ideas of God common 
among men. This was evidently the case of all Gen- 
tilism. Nor hath even amongst Jews, Christians, 
and Mahometans, who acknowledged but one 
God, this doctrine, and the care taken in those 
nations to teach men to have true notions of a 
God, prevailed so far as to make men to have 
the same and the true ideas of him. How many 
even amongst us, will be found upon inquiry to 
fancy him in the shape of a man sitting in heav- 
en; and to have many other absurd and unfit 
conceptions of him? Christians as well as Turks 
have had whole sects owning and contending 
earnestly for it, that the Deity was corporeal, 
and of human shape: and though we find few 
now amongst us who profess themselves Anthro- 
pomorphites, (though some I have met with that 
own it,) yet I believe he that will make it his 
business may find amongst the ignorant and un- 
instructed Christians many of that opinion. Talk 
but with country people, almost of any age, or 
young people almost of any condition, and you 
shall find that, though the name of God be fre- 
quently in their mouths, yet the notions they ap- 
ply this name to are so odd, low, and pitiful, 
that nobody can imagine they were taught by a 
rational man; much less that they were charac- 
ters written by the finger of God himself. Nor do 
I see how it derogates more from the goodness 
of God, that he has given us minds unfurnished 
with these ideas of himself, than that he hath 
sent us into the world with bodies unclothed; 
and that there is no art or skill born with us. 
For, being fitted with faculties to attain these, it 
is want of industry and consideration in us, and 
not of bounty in him, if we have them not. It is as 
certain that there is a God, as that the opposite 
angles made by the intersection of two straight 
lines are equal. There was never any rational 
creature that set himself sincerely to examine the 
truth of these propositions that could fail to as- 
sent to them; though yet it be past doubt that 
there are many men, who, having not applied 
their thoughts that way, are ignorant both of the 
one and the other. If any one think fit to call 
this (which is the utmost of its extent) universal 
consent^ such an one I easily allow; but such an 
universal consent as this proves not the idea of 



117 



God, any more than it does the idea of such an- 
gles, innate. 

1 8. If the idea of God be not innate, no other can be 
supposed innate. Since then though the knowledge 
of a God be the most natural discovery of human 
reason, yet the idea of him is not innate, as I 
think is evident from what has been said; I im- 
agine there will be scarce any other idea found 
that can pretend to it. Since if God hath set any 
impression, any character, on the understand- 
ing of men, it is most reasonable to expect it 
should have been some clear and uniform idea 
of Himself; as far as our weak capacities were 
capable to receive so incomprehensible and in- 
finite an object. But our minds being at first void 
of that idea which we are most concerned to 
have, it is a strong presumption against all other 
innate characters. I must own, as far as I can 
observe, I can find none, and would be glad to 
be informed by any other. 

19. Idea of substance not innate. I confess there is 
another idea which would be of general use for 
mankind to have, as it is of general talk as if they 
had it; and that is the idea of substance; which we 
neither have nor can have by sensation or re- 
flection. 1 If nature took care to provide us any 
ideas, we might well expect they should be such 
as by our own faculties we cannot procure to 
ourselves; but we see, on the contrary, that since, 
by those ways whereby other ideas are brought 
into our minds, this is not, we have no such clear 
idea at all; 2 and therefore signify nothing by the 
word substance but only an uncertain supposition* 
of we know not what, i.e. of something whereof 
we have no [particular distinct positive] idea, 
which we take to be the substratum, or support, 
of those ideas we do know. 4 

20. JVo propositions can be innate, since no ideas are 
innate. Whatever then we talk of innate, either 
speculative or practical, principles, it may with 
as much probability be said, that a man hath 
100 sterling in his pocket, and yet denied that 
he hath there either penny, shilling, crown, or 
other coin out of which the sum is to be made 
up; as to think that certain propositions are innate 
when the ideas about which they are can by no 
means be supposed to be so. The general recep- 
tion and assent that is given doth not at all prove, 
that the ideas expressed in them are innate; for 
in many cases, however the ideas came there, 

*See Bk. II. ch. xiii. | 17-20; ch. xxiii. passim. 

2 Cf. Locke, Third Letter to Stillingfleet, pp. 381 , 
etc. 

8 Cf. Locke, Third Letter, pp. 375, etc.; also First 
Letter, pp. 27, etc.; also the letter to Samuel Bold, 
15 May, 1699. 

4 Cf. Third Letter to Stillfngfleet. 



JOHN LOCKE 



118 

the assent to words expressing the agreement or 
disagreement of such ideas, will necessarily fol- 
low. Every one that hath a true idea of God and 
worship, will assent to this proposition, "That God 
is to be worshipped," when expressed in a lan- 
guage he understands; and every rational man 
that hath not thought on it to-day, may be ready 
to assent to this proposition to-morrow; and yet 
millions of men may be well supposed to want 
one or both those ideas to-day. For, if we will al- 
low savages, and most country people, to have 
ideas of God and worship, (which conversation 
with them will not make one forward to believe,) 
yet I think few children can be supposed to have 
those ideas, which therefore they must begin to 
have some time or other; and then they will also 
begin to assent to that proposition, and make 
very little question of it ever after. But such an 
assent upon hearing, no more proves the ideas to 
be innate, than it does that one born blind (with 
cataracts which will be couched to-morrow) had 
the innate ideas of the sun, or light, or saffron, 
or yellow; because, when his sight is cleared, 
he will certainly assent to this proposition, "That 
the sun is lucid, or that saffron is yellow." And 
therefore, if such an assent upon hearing cannot 
prove the ideas innate, it can much less the prop- 
ositions made up of those ideas. If they have any 
innate ideas, I would be glad to be told what, 
and how many, they are, 

21. No innate ideas in the memory. To which let 
me add: if there be any innate ideas, any ideas 
in the mind which the mind does not actually 
think on, they must be lodged in the memory; 
and from thence must be brought into view by 
remembrance; Le. must be known, when they 
are remembered, to have been perceptions in 
the mind before; unless remembrance can be 
without remembrance. For, to remember is to 
perceive anything with memory 3 or with a con- 
sciousness that it was perceived or known before. 
Without this, whatever idea comes into the mind 
is new, and not remembered; this consciousness 
of its having been in the mind before, being that 
which distinguishes remembering from all other 
ways of thinking. Whatever idea was never per- 
cevoed by the mind was never in the mind. What- 
ever idea is in the mind, is, either an actual per- 
ception, or else, having been an actual percep- 
tion, is so in the mind that, by the memory, it 
can be made an actual perception again. When- 
ever tbere is the actual perception of any idea 
without memory, the idea appears perfectly new 
anduitoofwbrf<^f!0tbfiunderst^ When- 
ever the mesoory brings any idea into actual 
view, it is mtk a^^toaowsaess ttiat it&ad been 



BOOK I 



there before, and was not wholly a stranger to 
the mind. Whether this be not so, I appeal to 
every one's observation. And then I desire an in- 
stance of an idea, pretended to be innate, which 
(before any impression of it by ways hereafter to 
be mentioned) any one could revive and remem- 
ber, as an idea he had formerly known; without 
which consciousness of a former perception there 
is no remembrance; and whatever idea comes 
into the mind without that consciousness is not 
remembered, or comes not out of the memory, 
nor can be said to be in the mind before that ap- 
pearance. For what is not either actually in view 
or in the memory, is in the mind no way at all, 
and is all one as if it had never been there. Sup- 
pose a child had the use of his eyes till he knows 
and distinguishes colours; but then cataracts shut 
the windows, and he is forty or fifty years per- 
fectly in the dark; and in that time perfectly 
loses all memory of the ideas of colours he once 
had. This was the case of a blind man I once 
talked with, who lost his sight by the small-pox 
when he was a child, and had no more notion of 
colours than one born blind. I ask whether any 
one can say this man had then any ideas of col- 
ours in his mind, any more than one born blind? 
And I think nobody will say that either of them 
had in his mind any ideas of colours at all. His 
cataracts are couched, and then he has the ideas 
(which he remembers not) of colours, denovo, by 
his restored sight, conveyed to his mind, and that 
without any consciousness of a former acquaint- 
ance. And these now he can revive and call to 
mind in the dark. In this case all these ideas of 
colours, which, when out of view, can be revived 
with a consciousness of a former acquaintance, 
being thus in the memory, are said to be in the 
mind. The use I make of this is, that whatever 
idea, being not actually in view, is in the mind, 
is there only by being in the memory; and if it 
be not in the memory, it is not in the mind; and 
if it be in the memory, it cannot by the memory 
be brought into actual view without a percep- 
tion that it comes out of .the memory; which is 
this, that it had been known before, and is now 
remembered. If therefore there be any innate 
ideas, they must be in the memory, or else no- 
where in the mind; and if they be in the mem- 
ory, they can be revived without any impression 
from without; and whenever they are brought 
into the mind they are remembered, i.e. they 
bring with them a perception of their not being 
wholly new to it This being a constant and dis- 
tinguishing difference between what is, and what 
is not in tbe memory, or ia the mind; that 
what is not in the memory^ whenever it appears 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP, m 

there, appears perfectly new and unknown be- 
fore; and what is in the memory, or in the mind, 
whenever it is suggested by the memory, ap- 
pears not to be new, but the mind finds it in it- 
self, and knows it was there before. By this it 
may be tried whether there be any innate ideas 
in the mind before impression from sensation or 
reflection. I would fain meet with the man who, 
when he came to the use of reason, or at any 
other time, remembered any of them; and to 
whom, after he was born, they were never new. 
If any one will say, there are ideas in the mind 
that are not in the memory, I desire him to ex- 
plain himself, and make what he says intelligi- 
ble. 

22. Principles not innate, because of little use or lit- 
tie certainty. Besides what I have already said, 
there is another reason why I doubt that neither 
these nor any other principles are innate. I that 
am fully persuaded that the infinitely wise God 
made all things in perfect wisdom, cannot satis- 
fy myself why he should be supposed to print 
upon the minds of men some universal princi- 
ples; whereof those that are pretended innate, 
and concern speculation, are of no great use; and 
those that concern practice, not self-evident; and 
neither of them distinguishable from some other 
truths not allowed to be innate. For, to what 
purpose should characters be graven on the mind 
by the finger of God, which are not clearer there 
than those which are afterwards introduced, or 
cannot be distinguished from them? If any one 
thinks there are such innate ideas and proposi- 
tions, which by their clearness and usefulness are 
distinguishable from all that is adventitious in 
the mind and acquired, it will not be a hard 
matter for him to tell us which they are; and then 
every one will be a fit judge whether they be so 
or no. Since if there be such innate ideas and 
impressions, plainly different from all other per- 
ceptions and knowledge, every one will find it 
true in himself. Of the evidence of these sup- 
posed innate maxims, I have spoken already: of 
their usefulness I shall have occasion to speak 
more hereafter. 1 

23. Difference of men* s discoveries depends upon the 
different application of their faculties. To conclude: 
some ideas f orwardly offer themselves to all men's 
understanding; and some sorts of truths result 
from any ideas, as soon as the mind puts them 
into propositions: other truths require a train of 
ideas placed in order, a due comparing of them, 
and deductions made with attention, before they 
can be discovered and assented to. Some of the 
first sort, because of their general and easy re- 



ception, have been mistaken for innate: but the 
truth is, ideas and notions are no more born with 
us than arts and sciences; though some of them 
indeed offer themselves to our faculties more 
readily than others; and therefore are more gen- 
erally received: though that too be according as 
the organs of our bodies and powers of our minds 
happen to be employed; God having fitted men 
with faculties and means to discover, receive, 
and retain truths, according as they are em- 
ployed. The great difference that is to be found 
in the notions of mankind is, from the different 
use they put their faculties to. Whilst some (and 
those the most) taking things upon trust, mis- 
employ their power of assent, by lazily enslav- 
ing their minds to the dictates and dominion of 
others, in doctrines which it is their duty care- 
fully to examine, and not blindly, with an im- 
plicit faith, to swallow; others, employing their 
thoughts only about some few things, grow ac- 
quainted sufficiently with them, attain great de- 
grees of knowledge in them, and are ignorant of 
all other, having never let their thoughts loose 
in the search of other inquiries. Thus, that the 
three angles of a triangle are quite equal to two 
right ones is a truth as certain as anything can 
be, and I think more evident than many of those 
propositions that go for principles; and yet there 
are millions, however expert in other things, who 
know not this at all, because they never set their 
thoughts on work about such angles. And he 
that certainly knows this proposition may yet be 
utterly ignorant of the truth of other proposi- 
tions, in mathematics itself, which are as clear 
and evident as this; because, in his search of those 
mathematical truths, he stopped his thoughts 
short and went not so far. The same may hap- 
pen concerning the notions we have of the being 
of a Deity. For, though there be no truth which 
a man may more evidently make out to himself 
than the existence of a God, yet he that shall 
content himself with things as he finds them in 
this world, as they minister to his pleasures and 
passions, and not make inquiry a little further 
into their causes, ends, and admirable contriv- 
ances, and pursue the thoughts thereof with dili- 
gence and attention, may live long without any 
notion of such a Being, And if any person hath 
by talk put such a notion into his head, he may 
perhaps believe it; but if he hath never exam- 
ined it, his knowledge of it will be no perfecter 
than his, who having been told, that the three 
angles of a triangle are equal to two right ones, 
takes it upon trust, without examining the dem- 
onstration; and may yield his assent as a proba- 
ble opinion^ but hath no knowledge of the truth 



120 

of it; which yet his faculties, if carefully em- 
ployed, were able to make clear and evident to 
him. But this only, by the by, to show how much 
our knowledge depends upon the right use of those pow- 
ers nature hath bestowed upon us, and how little up- 
on such innate principles as are in vain supposed to be 
in all mankind for their direction; which all men 
could not but know if they were there, or else 
they would be there to no purpose. And which 
since all men do not know, nor can distinguish 
from other adventitious truths, we may well con- 
clude there are no such. 

24. Men must think and know for themselves. What 
censure doubting thus of innate principles may 
deserve from men, who will be apt to call it pull- 
ing up the old foundations of knowledge and 
certainty, I cannot tell; I persuade myself at 
least that the way I have pursued, being con- 
formable to truth, lays those foundations surer. 
This I am certain, I have not made it my busi- 
ness either to quit or follow any authority in 
the ensuing Discourse. Truth has been my only 
aim; and wherever that has appeared to lead, 
my thoughts have impartially followed, without 
minding whether the footsteps of any other lay 
that way or not. Not that I want a due respect 
to other men's opinions; but, after all, the great- 
est reverence is due to truth: and I hope it will 
not be thought arrogance to say, that perhaps 
we should make greater progress in the discov- 
ery of rational and contemplative knowledge, if 
we sought it in the fountain, in the consideration of 
things themselves; and made use rather of our own 
thoughts than other men's to find it. For I think 
we may as rationally hope to see with other 
men's eyes, as to know by other men's under- 
standings. So much as we ourselves consider and 
comprehend of truth and reason, so much we 
possess of real and true knowledge. The floating 
of other men's opinions in our brains, makes us 
not one jot the more knowing, though they hap- 
pen to be true. What in them was science, is in 
us but opiniatrety; whilst we give up our assent 
only to reverend names, and do not, as they did, 
employ our own reason to understand those truths 
which gave them reputation. Aristotle was cer- 
tainly a knowing man, but nobody ever thought 
him so because he blindly embraced, and confi- 
dently vented the opinions of another. And if 
the taking up of another's principles, without 
examining them, made not him a philosopher, I 
suppose it will hardly make anybody else so. In 
the sciences, every one has so much as he really 
knows and comprehends. What he believes on- 
ly, and takes upon trust, are but shreds; which, 
however well in the whok piece, make no con- 



JOHN LOCKE 



BOOK I 

siderable addition to his stockwho gathers them. 
Such borrowed wealth, like fairy money, though 
it were gold in the hand from which he received 
it, will be but leaves and dust when it comes to 
use. 

25. Whence the opinion oj innate principles. When 
men have found some general propositions that 
could not be doubted of as soon as understood, 
it was, I know, a short and easy way to conclude 
them innate. This being once received, it eased 
the lazy from the pains of search, and stopped 
the inquiry of the doubtful concerning all that 
was once styled innate. And it was of no small 
advantage to those who affected to be masters 
and teachers, to make this the principle of prin- 
ciples, that principles must not be questioned. For, 
having once established this tenet, that there 
are innate principles, it put their followers upon 
a necessity of receiving some doctrines as such; 
which was to take them off from the use of their 
own reason and judgment, and put them on be- 
lieving and taking them upon trust without fur- 
ther examination: in which posture of blind cre- 
dulity, they might be more easily governed by, 
and made useful to some sort of men, who had 
the skill and office to principle and guide them. 
Nor is it a small power it gives one man over 
another, to have the authority to be the dictator of 
principles, and teacher of unquestionable truths; 
and to make a man swallow that for an innate 
principle which may serve to his purpose who 
teacheth them. Whereas had they examined the 
ways whereby men came to the knowledge of 
many universal truths, they would have found 
them to result in the minds of men from the be- 
ing of things themselves, when duly considered; 
and that they were discovered by the applica- 
tion of those faculties that were fitted by nature 
to receive and judge of them, when duly em- 
ployed about them. 

26. Conclusion. To show how the understanding 
proceeds herein is the design of the following 
Discourse; which I shall proceed to when I have 
first premised, that hitherto, to clear my way 
to those foundations which I conceive are the 
only true ones, whereon to establish those no- 
tions we can have of our own knowledge, it 
hath been necessary for me to give an account 
of the reasons I had to doubt of innate princi- 
ples. And since the arguments which are against 
them do, some of them, rise from common re- 
ceived opinions, I have been forced to take sev- 
eral things for granted; which is hardly avoida- 
ble to any one, whose task is to show the false- 
hood or improbability of any tenet; it happen- 
ing in controversial discourses as it does in as- 



CHAP, m 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



saulting of towns; where, if the ground be but 
firm whereon the batteries are erected, there is 
no further inquiry of whom it is borrowed, nor 
whom it belongs to, so it affords but a fit rise for 
the present purpose. But in the future part of 
this Discourse, designing to raise an edifice uni- 
form and consistent with itself, as far as my own 
experience and observation will assist me, I hope 
to erect it on such a basis that I shall not need to 
shore it up with props and buttresses, leaning on 
borrowed or begged foundations: or at least, if 
mine prove a castle in the air, I will endeavour 
it shall be all of a piece and hang together. 



121 

Wherein I warn the reader not to expect unde- 
niable cogent demonstrations, unless I may be 
allowed the privilege, not seldom assumed by 
others, to take my principles for granted; and 
then, I doubt not, but I can demonstrate too. 
All that I shall say for the principles I proceed 
on is, that I can only appeal to men's own un- 
prejudiced experience and observation whether 
they be true or not; and this is enough for a man 
who professes no more than to lay down candid- 
ly and freely his own conjectures, concerning a 
subject lying somewhat in the dark, without any 
other design than anunbiassedinquiry aftertruth. 



BOOK II. Of Ideas 



Chap. I. Of Ideas in general, and their Original 

1. Idea is the object of thinking. Every man being 
conscious to himself that he thinks; and that 
which his mind is applied about whilst thinking 
being the ideas that are there, 1 it is past doubt 
that men have in their minds several ideas, 
such as are those expressed by the words white- 
ness, hardness, sweetness, thinking, motion, man, ele- 
phant, army, drunkenness, and others: it is in the 
first place then to be inquired, How he comes by 
them? 

I know it is a received doctrine, that men have 
native ideas, and original characters, stamped 
upon their minds in their very first being. This 
opinion I have at large examined already; and, 
I suppose what I have said in the foregoing Book 
will be much more easily admitted, when I have 
shown whence the understanding may get all the 
ideas it has; and by what ways and degrees they 
may come into the mind; for which I shall 
appeal to every one's own observation and 
experience. 

2. All ideas come from sensation or reflection. Let 
us then* Stlpp6se the mind to be, as we sayTwhite 
paper, void of all characters, without any 
ideas: How comes it to be furnished? Whence 
comes it by that vast store which the busy and 
boundless fancy of man has painted on it with 
an almost endless variety? Whence has it all the 
materials of reason and knowfedgcr "I o. this 1 an- 
swer, inone word, fromEXPERiEKCE. In that all 
ouf Eowledge is founded; and Irom that it ulti- 
mately derives itself. Our observation employed 
either, about < * vt<aa ^ T1gi ^ ohfoter ^ about 



titcmt&rnal'operatiQns of our 



tandings with all the materials of 




thinking. These two are the fountains of knowl- 
edge, from whence all the ideas we have, or can 
naturally have, do spring. 

3. The objects of sensation one source of ideas. First, 
our Senses, conversant about particular sensible 
objects, do convey into the mind several distinct 
perceptions 2 of things, according to those vari- 
ous ways wherein those objects do affect them. 
And thus we come by those ideas we have ofyel- 
low, white, heat, cold, soft, hard, bitter, sweet, and all 
those which we call sensible qualities; which 
when I say the senses convey into the mind, I 
mean, they from external objects convey into the 
mind what produces there those perceptions. 
This great source of most of the ideas we have, 
depending wholly upon our senses, and derived 
by them to the understanding, I caJlsEiss^TiON. 3 

4. The operations of our minds, the other source of 
them. Secondly, the other fountain from which 
experience furnisheth the understanding with 
ideas is, the perception of the operations of our 
own mind within us, as it is employed about the 
ideas it has got; which operations, when the 
soul comes to reflect on and consider, do furnish 
the understanding with another set of ideas, 
which could not be had from things without And 
such art perception, thinking, doubting, believing, rea- 

wiling, and afrrhe different" act- 
our own minHs; which we being con- 
scious of, and observing in ourselves, do from 
these receive into our understandings as distinct 
ideas as we do from bodies affecting our senses. 
This source of ideas every in an has wholly in him- 
self; and though it be not sense, as having noth- 
ing to do with external objects, yet it is very like 
it, and might properly enough be ca&tdJB&s&al 
But as I call the other SENSATION, so I call 

ch. xxL 5. 
*Cf. 23; also ch. xix. i. 



JOHN LOCKE 



122 

this REFLECTION, the ideas it affords being such 
only as the mind gets by reflecting on its own 
operations within itself. By reflection then, in the 
following part of this discourse, I would be un- 
derstood to mean, that notice which the mind 
takes of its own operations, and the manner of 
them, by reason whereof there come to be ideas 
of these operations in the understanding. These 
two, I say, viz. external rnaterialjhings, as the 
objects of SENSATION, and the operations of our 
oWrfmlhds within, as the objects of REFLECTION, 1 
arcrKTme the'only originals irom whence all our 
ideas take their beginnings. The term operations 
here I use in a large sense, as comprehending 
not barely the actions of the mind about its ideas, 
but some sort of passions arising some tunes from 
them, such as is the satisfaction or uneasiness 
arising from any thought. 

5. All our ideas are of the one or the other of these. 
The understanding seems to me not to have the 
least glimmering of any ideas which it doth not 
receive from one of these two. External objects^, 
furnish the mind with the ideas ofsensible quali- 
tiegTwhich are all llroe difffel'elirpCTce^tkms 
theypfoduce in us; and the mind 1 Tumishesjthc 
understanHS|f with ideas ot its own^operations. 2 

These, vffielTw-c have taken T full survey of 



them, and their several modes, combinations, 
and relations, we shall find to contain all our 
whole stock of ideas; and that we have nothing 
in our minds which did not come in one of these 
two ways. Let any one examine his own thoughts, 
and thoroughly search into his understanding; 
and then let him tell me, whether all the original 
ideas he has there, are any other than of the ob- 
jects of Ms senses, or of the operations of his mind, 
considered as objects of his reflection. And how 
great a mass of knowledge soever he imagines to 
be lodged there, he will, upon taking a strict view, 
see that he has not any idea in his mind but what 
one of these two have imprinted; though per- 
haps, with infinite variety compounded and en- 
larged by the understanding, as we shall see 
hereafter, 8 

6. Ob$mabletn cUldren* He that attentively con- 
siders tbe state of a child, at his first coming into 
the world, wiH have little reason to think him 
stored with plenty of ideas, that are to be the mat- 
ter of hisnxture knowledge. It is lydtgreestis. comes 
to be furnished with them. And though the ideas 
of obvious and familiar qualities imprint them- 
selves before the memory begins to keep a regis- 
ter of time or order, yet it is often so late before 

l Ct Bk. IV: ch. ix. and xi. 

2 Of. Bacoo, Nowm Organum, L Aph. I. 



BOOK II 

some unusual qualities come in the way, that 
there are few men that cannot recollect the be- 
ginning of their acquaintance with them. And if 
it were worth while, no doubt a child might be 
so ordered as to have but a very few, even of the 
ordinary ideas, till he were grown up to a man. 
But all that are born into the world, being sur- 
rounded with bodies that perpetually and di- 
versely affect them, variety of ideas, whether care 
"be taken of it or not, are imprinted on the minds 
of children. Light and colours are busy at hand 
everywhere, when the eye is but open; sounds 
and some tangible qualities fail not to solicit 
their proper senses, and force an entrance to 
the mind; but yet, I think, it will be granted 
easily, that if a child were kept in a place where 
he never saw any other but black and white till he 
were a man, he would have no more ideas of scar- 
let or green, than he that from his childhood never 
tasted an oyster, or a pine-apple, has of those par- 
ticular relishes. 

7. Men are differently jurnished with these, accord- 
ing to the different objects they converse with. Men then 
come to be furnished with fewer or more simple 
ideas from without, according as the objects they 
converse with afford greater or less variety; and 
from the operations of their minds within, ac- 
cording as they more or less reflect on them. For, 
though he that contemplates the operations of 
his mind, cannot but have plain and clear ideas 
of them; yet, unless he turn his thoughts that way, 
and considers them attentively, he will no more 
have clear and distinct ideas of all the operations 
of his mind, and all that may be observed there- 
in, than he will have all the particular ideas of 
any landscape, or of the parts and motions of a 
clock, who will not turn his eyes to it, and with 
attention heed all the parts of it. The picture, or 
clock may be so placed, that they may come in 
his way every day; but yet he will have but a 
confused idea of all the parts they are made up 
of, till he applies himself with attention, to con- 
sider them each in particular. 

8. Ideas of reflection later ^ because they need atten- 
tion. And hence we see the reason why it is pret- 
ty late before most children get ideas of the op- 
erations of their own minds; and some have not 
any very dear or perfect ideas of the greatest part 
of them all their lives. Because, though they pass 
there continually, yet, like floating visions, they 
make not deep impressions enough to leave in 
their mind clear, distinct, lasting ideas, till the 
understanding turns inward upon itself, reflects 
on its own operations, and makes them the ob- 
jecjte of its own contemplation, ChUd^e when 
they come first into it, are surr0un$$4-witb a 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP. I 

world of new things, which, by a constant solici- 
tation of their senses, draw the mind constantly 
to them; forward to take notice of new, and apt 
to be delighted with the variety of changing ob- 
jects. Thus the first years are usually employed 
and diverted in looking abroad. Men's business 
in them is to acquaint themselves with what is 
to be found without; and so growing up in a con- 
stant attention to outward sensations, seldom 
make any considerable reflection on what passes 
within them, till they come to be of riper years; 
and some scarce ever at all. 

9. The soul begins to have ideas when it begins to 
perceive. To ask, at what time a man has first any 
ideas, is to ask, when he begins to perceive; 
having ideas, and perception, being the same thing. 
I know it is an opinion, that the soul always thinks, 
and that it has the actual perception of ideas in 
itself constantly, as long as it exists; and that ac- 
tual thinking is as inseparable from the soul as 
actual extension is from the body; which if true, 
to inquire after the beginning of a man's ideas 
is the same as to inquire after the beginning of 
his soul. For, by this account, soul and its ideas, 
as body and its extension, will begin to exist both 
at the same time. 

10. The soul thinks not always; for this wants 
proofs. But whether the soul be supposed to exist 
antecedent to, or coeval with, or some time af- 
ter the first rudiments of organization, or the 
beginnings of life in the body, I leave to be dis- 
puted by those who have better thought of that 
matter. I confess myself to have one of those 
dull souls, that doth not perceive itself always to 
contemplate ideas; nor can conceive it any more 
necessary for the soul always to think, than for 
the body always to move: the perception of ideas 
being (as I conceive) to the soul, what motion is 
to the body; not its essence, but one of its opera- 
tions. And therefore, though thinking be sup- 
posed never so much the proper action of the 
soul, yet it is not necessary to suppose that it 
should be always thinking, always in action. 
That, perhaps, is the privilege of the infinite 
Author and Preserver of all things, who "never 
slumbers nor sleeps;" but is not competent to 
any finite being, at least not to the soul of man. 
We know certainly, by experience, that we some- 
times think; and thence draw this infallible con- 
sequence, that there is something in us that 
has a power to thmk. But whether that sub- 
stance perpetually thinks or no, we can be tfco fur- 
ther assured than experience informs us. For, to 
say that actual thinking is essential to the soul, 
aail inseparable from it, is to beg what is in 
question, aiadiaot tojsrove it by reason; wkich 



123 



is necessary to be done, if it be not a self-evident 
proposition. But whether this, "That the soul al- 
ways thinks," be a self-evident proposition, that 
everybody assents to at first hearing, I appeal to 
mankind. It is doubted whether I thought at all 
last night or no. The question being about a 
matter of fact, it is begging it to bring, as a proof 
for it, an hypothesis, which is the very thing in 
dispute: by which way one may prove anything, 
and it is but supposing that all watches, whilst 
the balance beats, think, and it is sufficiently 
proved, and past doubt, that my watch thought 
all last night. But he that would not deceive him- 
self, ought to build his hypothesis on matter of 
fact, and make it out by sensible experience, 
and not presume on matter of fact, because of 
his hypothesis, that is, because he supposes it to 
be so; which way of proving amounts to this, 
that I must necessarily think all last night, be- 
cause another supposes I always think, though I 
myself cannot perceive that I always do so. 

But men in love with their opinions may not 
only suppose what is in question, but allege 
wrong matter of fact. How else could any one 
make it an inference of mine, that a thing is not, 
because we are not sensible of it in our sleep? I 
do not say there is no soul in a man, because he is 
not sensible of it in his sleep; but I do say, he 
cannot think at any time, waking or sleeping, 
without being sensible of it. Our being sensible 
of it is not necessary to anything but to our 
thoughts; and to them it is; and to them it al- 
ways will be necessary, till we can think without 
being conscious of it. 1 

1 1 . It is not always conscious of it. I grant that 
the soul, in a waking man, is never without 
thought, because it is the condition of being 
awake. But whether sleeping without dreaming 
be not an affection of the whole man, mind as 
well as body, may be worth a waking man's con- 
sideration; it being hard to conceive that any- 
thing should think and not be conscious of it. If 
the soul doth think in a sleeping man without 
being conscious of it, I ask whether, during such 
thinking, it has any pleasure or pain, or be ca- 
pable of happiness or misery? I am sure the man 
is not; no more than the bed or earth he lies on. 
For to be happy or miserable without being con- 
scious of it, seems to me utterly inconsistent and 
impossible. Or if it be possible that the s&d can, 
whibt the body is sleeping, have its thinking, 
enjoyments, and concerns, its pleasures or pain, 
apart, which the man is not conscious of nor par- 
takes in, it is certain that Socrates asleep aod 
Socrates awake is not the same persoa; but bis 



JOHN LOCKE 



124 

soul when he sleeps, and Socrates the man, con- 
sisting of body and soul, when he is waking, are 
two persons: since waking Socrates has no knowl- 
edge of, or concernment for that happiness or 
misery of his soul, which it enjoys alone by itself 
whilst he sleeps, without perceiving anything of 
it; no more than he has for the happiness or mis- 
ery of a man in the Indies, whom he knows not. 
For, if we take wholly away all consciousness of 
our actions and sensations, especially of pleas- 
ure and pain, and the concernment that accom- 
panies it, it will be hard to know wherein to 
place personal identity. 1 

12. If a deeping man thinks without knowing it, 
the sleeping and waking man are two persons. The soul, 
during sound sleep, thinks, say these men. Whilst 
it thinks and perceives, it is capable certainly of 
those of delight or trouble, as well as any other 
perceptions; and it must necessarily be conscious 
of its own perceptions. But it has all this apart: 
the sleeping man, it is plain, is conscious of noth- 
ing of all this. Let us suppose, then, the soul of 
Castor, while he is sleeping, retired from his 
body; which is no impossible supposition for the 
men I have here to do with, who so liberally 
allow life, without a thinking soul, to all other 
animals. These men cannot then judge it im- 
possible, or a contradiction, that the body should 
live without the soul; nor that the soul should 
subsist and think, or have perception, even per- 
ception of happiness or misery, without the body. 
Let us then, I say, suppose the soul of Castor 
separated during his sleep from his body, to 
think apart. Let us suppose, too, that it chooses 
for its scene of thinking the body of another man, 
v.g. Pollux, who is sleeping without a souL For, 
if Castor's soul can think, whilst Castor is asleep, 
what Castor is never conscious of, it is no matter 
what place it chooses to think in. We have here, 
then, the bodies of two men with only one soul 
between them, which we will suppose to sleep 
and wake by turns; and the soul still thinking in 
the waking man, whereof the sleeping man is 
never conscious, has never the least perception. 
I ask, then, whether Castor and Pollux, thus 
with only one soul between them^ which thinks 
and perceives in one what the other is never con- 
scious of, nor is concerned for, are not two as 
distinct persons as Castor and Hercules, or as 
Socrates and Plato were? And whether one of 
them might not be very happy, and the other 
very miserable? Just by the same reason, they 
make the soul and the man two persons, who 
.make the soul think apart what the man is not 
conscious of. For, I suppose rw>body will make 

1 Cf. ch. xxvii 



BOOK II 

identity of persons to consist in the soul's being 
united to the very same numercial particles of 
matter. For if that be necessary to identity, it 
will be impossible, in that constant flux of the 
particles of our bodies, that any man should be 
the same person two days, or two moments, to- 
gether. 

13. Impossible to convince those that sleep without 
dreaming, that they think. Thus, methinks, every 
drowsy nod shakes their doctrine, who teach 
that the soul is always thinking. Those, at least, 
who do at any time sleep without dreaming, can 
never be convinced that their thoughts are some- 
times for four hours busy without their knowing 
of it; and if they are taken in the very act, waked 
in the middle of that sleeping contemplation, 
can give no manner of account of it. 

14. That men dream without remembering it, in 
vain urged. It will perhaps be said, That the 
soul thinks even in the soundest sleep, but the 
memory retains it not. That the soul in a sleeping 
man should be this moment busy a thinking, 
and the next moment in a waking man not re- 
member nor be able to recollect one jot of all 
those thoughts, is very hard to be conceived, 
and would need some better proof than bare 
assertion 2 to make it be believed. For who can 
without any more ado, but being barely told so, 
imagine that the greatest part of men do, during 
all their lives, for several hours every day, think 
of something, which if they were asked, even in , 
the middle of these thoughts, they could remem- 
ber nothing at all of? Most men, I think, pass a 
great part of their sleep without dreaming. I 
once knew a man that was bred a scholar, and 
had no bad memory, who told me he had never 
dreamed in his life, till he had that fever he was 
then newly recovered of, which was about the 
five or six and twentieth year of his age. I sup- 
pose the world affords more such instances: at 
least every one's acquaintance will furnish him 
with examples enough of such as pass most of 
their nights without dreaming. 

15. Upon this hypothesis, the thoughts of a sleeping 
man ought to be most rational. To think often, and 
never to retain it so much as one moment, is a 
very useless sort of thinking; and the soul, in such 
a state of thinking, does very little, if at all, excel 
that of a looking-glass, which constantly receives 
variety of images, or ideas, but retains none; they 
disappear and vanish, and there remain no foot- 
steps of them; the looking-glass is never the bet- 
ter for such ideas, nor the soul for such thoughts. 
Perhaps it will be said, that in a waking man the 
materials of the body are employed, and made 

*C W, James, Principles of Psychology, ch, viii. 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP. I 

use of, in thinking; and that the memory of 
thoughts is retained by the impressions that are 
made on the brain, and the traces there left after 
such thinking; but that in the thinking of the 
soul, which is not perceived in a sleeping man, 
there the soul thinks apart, and making no use 
of the organs of the body, leaves no impressions 
on it, and consequently no memory of such 
thoughts. Not to mention again the absurdity of 
two distinct persons, which follows from this sup- 
position, I answer, further, That whatever ideas 
the mind can receive and contemplate without 
the help of the body, it is reasonable to conclude 
it can retain without the help of the body too; or 
else the soul, or any separate spirit, will have but 
little advantage by thinking. If it has no mem- 
ory of its own thoughts; if it cannot lay them up 
for its own use, and be able to recall them upon 
occasion; if it cannot reflect upon what is past, 
and make use of its former experiences, reason- 
ings, and contemplations, to what purpose does 
it think? They who make the soul a thinking 
thing, at this rate, will not make it a much more 
noble being than those do whom they condemn, 
for allowing it to be nothing but the subtilist 
parts of matter. Characters drawn on dust, that 
the first breath of wind effaces; or impressions 
made on a heap of atoms, or animal spirits, are 
altogether as useful, and render the subject as 
noble, as the thoughts of a soul that perish in 
thinking; that, once out of sight, are gone for 
ever, and leave no memory of themselves behind 
them. Nature never makes excellent things for 
mean or no uses: and it is hardly to be conceived 
that our infinitely wise Creator should make so 
admirable a faculty as the power of thinking, that 
faculty which comes nearest the excellency of his 
own incomprehensible being, to be so idly and 
uselessly employed, at least a fourth part of its 
time here, as to think constantly, without remem- 
bering any of those thoughts, without doing any 
good to itself or others, or being any way useful 
to any other part of the creation. If we will ex- 
amine it, we shall not find, I suppose, the motion 
of dull and senseless matter, any where in the 
universe 9 made so little use of and so wholly 
thrown away. 

1 6. On this hypothesis^ the soul must have ideas not 
derived from sensation or reflection^ of which there is no 
appearance. It is true, we have sometimes instances 
of perception whilst/we are asleep, and retain the 
memory of those thoughts: but how extravagant 
and incoherent for the most part they are; how 
little conformable to the perfection and order of 
a rational being, those who are acquainted with 
dreams need not be told. This I would willingly 



125 



be satisfied in, whether the soul, when it thinks 
thus apart, and as it were separate from the body, 
acts less rationally than when conjointly with it, 
or no. If its separate thoughts be less rational, 
then these men must say, that the soul owes the 
perfection of rational thinking to the body: if it 
does not, it is a wonder that our dreams should 
be, for the most part, so frivolous and irrational; 
and that the soul should retain none of its more 
rational soliloquies and meditations. 

1 7. If I think when I know it not, nobody else can 
know it. Those who so confidently tell us that the 
soul always actually thinks, I would they would 
also tell us, what those ideas are that are in the 
soul of a child, before or just at the union with 
the body, before it hath received any by sensa- 
tion. The dreams of sleeping men are, as I take 
it, all made up of the waking man's ideas; though 
for the most part oddly put together. It is strange, 
if the soul has ideas of its own that it derived not 
from sensation or reflection, (as it must have, if 
it thought before it received any impressions from 
the body,) that it should never, in its private 
thinking, (so private, that the man himself per- 
ceives it not, ) retain any of them the very moment 
it wakes out of them, and then make the man 
glad with new discoveries. Who can find it reason 
that the soul should, in its retirement during 
sleep, have so many hours' thoughts, and yet 
never light on any of those ideas it borrowed not 
from sensation or reflection; or at least preserve 
the memory of none but such, which, being oc- 
casioned from the body, must needs be less natu- 
ral to a spirit? It is strange the soul should never 
once in a man's whole life recall over any of its 
pure native thoughts, and those ideas it had be- 
fore it borrowed anything from the body; never 
bring into the waking man's view any other ideas 
but what have a tang of the cask, and manifestly 
derive their original from that union. If it always 
thinks, and so had ideas before it was united, or 
before it received any from the body, it is not to 
be supposed but that during sleep it recollects its 
native ideas; and during that retirement from 
communicating with the body, whilst it thinks 
by itself, the ideas it is busied about should be, 
sometimes at least, those more natural and con- 
genial ones which it had in itself, underived from 
the body, or its own operations about them: 
which, since the waking man never remembers, 
we must from this hypothesis conclude either 
that the soul remembers something that the man 
does not; or else that memory belongs only to 
such ideas as are derived from the body, or the 
mind's operations about them. 

1 8. How knows any one that the soul always thinks? 



JOHN LOCKE 



For if it be not a self-evident proposition, it needs proof. 
I would be glad also to learn from these men 
who so confidently pronounce that the human 
soul, or, which is all one, that a man always 
thinks, how they come to know it; nay, how they 
come to know that they themselves think when 
they themselves do not perceive it. This, I am 
afraid, is to be sure without proofs, and to know 
without perceiving. It is, I suspect, a confused 
notion, taken up to serve an hypothesis; and none 
of those clear truths, that either their own evi- 
dence forces us to admit, or common experience 
makes it impudence to deny. For the most that 
can be said of it is, that it is possible the soul may 
always think, but not always retain it in mem- 
ory. And I say, it is as possible that the soul may 
not always think; and much more probable that 
it should sometimes not think, than that it should 
often think, and that a long while together, and 
not be conscious to itself, the next moment after, 
that it had thought. 

19. "That a man should be busy in thinking, and 
yet not retain it the next moment" very improbable. To 
suppose the soul to think, and the man not to 
perceive it, is, as has been said, to make two per- 
sons in one man. And if one considers well these 
men's way of speaking, one should be led into a 
suspicion that they do so. For they who tell us 
that the soul always thinks, do never, that I re- 
member, say that a man always thinks. Can the 
soul think, and not the man? Or a man think, 
and not be conscious of it? This, perhaps, would 
be suspected of jargon in others. If they say the 
man thinks always, but is not always conscious 
of it, they may as well say his body is extended 
without having parts. For it is altogether as in- 
telligible to say that a body is extended without 
parts, as that anything thinks without being con- 
scious of it, or perceiving that it does so. They 
who talk thus may, with as much reason, if it be 
necessary to their hypothesis* say that a man is 
always hungry, but that he does not always feel 
it; whereas hunger consists in that very sensa- 
tion, as thinking consists in being conscious that 
one thinks. If they say that a man is always con- 
scious to himself of thinking, I ask, How they 
know it? Consciousness is the perception of what 
passes in a man's own mind. Can another man 
perceive that I am conscious of anything,. when 
I perceive it not myself? No man's knowledge 
here can go beyond his experience. Wake a man 
out of a sound sleep, and ask him what he was 
that uioment thinking o If he himself be con- 
sciousof no thing he then thought on ? he must be 
a notable diviner of thoughts that can assure him 
that he was, 



BOOK II 

reason, assure him he was not asleep? This is 
something beyond philosophy; and it cannot be 
less than revelation, that discovers to another 
thoughts in my mind, when I can find none there 
myself. And they must needs have a penetrating 
sight who can certainly see that I think, when I 
cannot perceive it myself, and when I declare 
that I do not; and yet can see that dogs or ele- 
phants do not think, when they give all the dem- 
onstration of it imaginable, except only telling 
us that they do so. This some may suspect to be 
a step beyond the Rosicrucians; it seeming easier 
to make one's self invisible to others, than to make 
another's thoughts visible to me, which are not 
visible to himself. But it is but defining the soul 
to be "a substance that always thinks," and the 
business is done. If such definition be of any au- 
thority, I know not what it can serve for but to 
make many men suspect that they have no souls 
at all; since they find a good part of their lives 
pass away without thinking. For no definitions 
that I know, no suppositions of any sect, are of 
force enough to destroy constant experience; and 
perhaps it is the affectation of knowing beyond 
what we perceive, that makes so much useless 
dispute and noise in the world. 

20. No ideas but from sensation and reflection, evi- 
dent, if we observe children. I see no reason, there- 
fore, to believe that the soul thinks before the 
senses have furnished it with ideas to think on; 
and as those are increased and retained, so it 
comes, by exercise, to improve its faculty of think- 
ing in the several parts of it; as well as, after- 
wards, by compounding those ideas, and reflect- 
ing on its own operations, it increases its stock, 
as well as facility in remembering, imagining, 
reasoning, and other modes of thinking. 

2 1 . State of a child in the mother's womb. He that 
will suffer himself to be informed by observation 
and experience, and not make his own hypothe- 
sis the rule of nature, will find few signs of a soul 
accustomed to much thinking in a new-born 
child, and much fewer of any reasoning at all. 
And yet it is hard to imagine that the rational 
soul should think so much, and not reason at all. 
And he that will consider that infants newly come 
into the world spend the greatest part of their 
time in sleep, and are seldom awake but when 
either hunger calls for the teat, or some pain (the 
most importunate of all sensations), or some other 
violent impression on the body, forces the mind 
to perceive and attend to it; he, I say, who con- 
siders this, will perhaps find reason to imagine 
that frf&tus in the naotheac's womb differs not 
much from the state of a vegetable, but passes 
^greatest part pf its? time without, perception 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP. II 

or thought; doing very little but sleep in a place 
where it needs not seek for food, and is surrounded 
with liquor, always equally soft, and near of the 
same temper; where the eyes have no light, and 
the ears so shut up are not very susceptible of 
sounds; and where there is little or no variety, 
or change of objects, to move the senses. 

22. The mind thinks in proportion to the matter it 
gets from experience to think about. Follow a child 
from its birth, and observe the alterations that 
time makes, and you shall find, as the mind by 
the senses comes more and more to be furnished 
with ideas, it conies to be more and more awake; 
thinks more, the more it has matter to think on. 
After some time it begins to know the objects 
which, being most familiar with it, have made 
lasting impressions. Thus it comes by degrees to 
know the persons it daily converses with, and dis- 
tinguishes them from strangers; which are in- 
stances and effects of its coming to retain and 
distinguish the ideas the senses convey to it. And 
so we may observe how the mind, by degrees, im- 
proves in these; and advances to the exercise of 
those other faculties of enlarging, compounding, 
and abstracting its ideas, 1 and of reasoning about 
them, and reflecting upon all these; of which I 
shall have occasion to speak more hereafter. 

23. A man begins to have ideas when he first has sen- 
sation. What sensation is. If it shall be demanded 
then, when a man begins to have any ideas, I think 
the true answer is, when he first has any sensation. 
For, since there appear not to be any ideas in 
the mind before the senses have conveyed any 
in, I conceive that ideas in the understanding are 
coeval with sensation; which is such an impression or 
motion made in some part of the body^ as produces some 
perception in the understanding. 2 It is about these im- 
pressions made on our senses by outward objects 
that the mind seems first to employ itself, in such 
operations as we call perception, remembering, 
consideration, reasoning, &c. 

^ ^4. The original of all our knowledge. In time the 
mind comes to reflect on its own operations about 
the ideas got by sensation., and thereby stores it- 
self with a new set of ideas, which I call ideas of 
reflection. These are the impressions that are 
made on our senses by outward objects that are 
extrinsical to the mind; and its own operations, 
proceeding from powers intrinsical and proper 
to itself, which, when reflected on by itself, be- 
come also objects of its contemplation are, as I 
have said, the original of all knowledge. Thus 
the first capacity oif human intellect is, that the 
mind is fitted to receive the impressions made on 

*Gf.Bk. IV.ch.xvH. 8, 
*C cfcu xix. i. 



127 



it; either through the senses by outward objects, 
or by its own operations when it reflects on them. 
This is the first step a man makes towards the dis- 
covery of anything, and the groundwork whereon 
to build all those notions which ever he shall 
have naturally in this world. All those sublime 
thoughts which tower above the clouds, and 
reach as high as heaven itself, take their rise and 
footing here: in all that great extent wherein the 
mind wanders, in those remote speculations it 
may seem to be elevated with, it stirs not one jot 
beyond those ideas which sense orjgfiection have 
offered for its contemplation. { 

25. In the reception of simple ideas, the understand- 
ing is for the most part passive. In this part the un- 
derstanding is merely passive; and whether or 
no it will have these beginnings, and as it were 
materials of knowledge, is not in its own power. 
For the objects of our senses do, many of them, 
obtrude their particular ideas upon our minds 
whether we will or not; and the operations of 
our minds will not let us be without, at least, 
some obscure notions of them. No man can be 
wholly ignorant of what he does when he thinks. 
These simple ideas, when offered to the mind, 
the understanding can no more refuse to have, 
nor alter when they are imprinted, nor blot them 
out and make new ones itself, than a mirror can 
refuse, alter, or obliterate the images or ideas 
which the objects set before it do therein pro- 
duce. As the bodies that surround us do diversely 
affect our organs, the mind is forced to receive 
the impressions; 3 and cannot avoid the percep- 
tion of those ideas that are annexed to them. 

Chap, II. Of Simple Ideas 

i . Uncompounded appearances. The better to un- 
derstand the nature, manner, and extent of our 
knowledge, one thing is carefully to be observed 
concerning the ideas we have; and that is, that 
some of them are simple and some complex. 4 " 

Though the qualities that affect our senses are, 
in the things themselves, so united and blended, 
that there is no separation, no distance between 
them; yet it is plain, the ideas they produce in 
the mind enter by the senses simple and unmixed. 
For, though the sight and touch often take in 
from the same object, at the same time, different 
ideas; as a man sees at once motion and colour; 
the hand feels softness and warmth in the same 
piece of wax: yet the simple ideas thus united in 
the same subject, are as perfectly distinct as those 
that come in by different senses. The coldness 

S C Hume, Enquiry Concerning Human Under- 
standing, Sect. II. 
* Cf. ch. vii, 7. 



128 

and hardness which a man feels in a piece of ice 
being as distinct ideas in the mind as the smell 
and whiteness of a lily; or as the taste of sugar, 
and smell of a rose. And there is nothing can be 
plainer to a man than the clear and distinct per- 
ception he has of those simple ideas; which, be- 
ing each in itself uncompounded, contains in it 
nothing but one uniform appearance, or conception in 
the mind, and is not distinguishable into different 
ideas. 

2. The mind can neither make nor destroy them. These 
simple ideas, the materials of all our knowledge, 
are suggested and furnished to the mind only by 
those two ways above mentioned, viz. sensation 
and reflection. 1 When the understanding is once 
stored with these simple ideas, it has the power 
to repeat, compare, and unite them, even to an 
almost infinite variety, and so can make at pleas- 
ure new complex ideas. But it is not in the power 
of the most exalted wit, or enlarged understand- 
ing, by any quickness or variety of thought, to 
invent or frame one new simple idea in the mind, 
not taken in by the ways before mentioned: nor 
can any force of the understanding destroy those 
that are there. The dominion of man, in this little 
world of his own understanding being muchwhat 
the same as it is in the great world of visible 
things; wherein his power, however managed by 
art and skill, reaches no farther than to com- 
pound and divide the materials that are made 
to his hand; but can do nothing towards the mak- 
ing the least particle of new matter, or destroy- 
ing one atom of what is already in being. The 
same inability will every one find in himself, who 
shall go about to fashion in his understanding 
one simple idea, not received in by his senses 
from external objects, or by reflection from the 
operations of his own mind about them. I would 
have any one try to fancy any taste which had 
never affected his palate; or frame the idea of a 
scent he had never smelt: and when he can do 
this, I will also conclude that a blind man hath 
ideas of colours, and a deaf man true distinct 
notions of sounds. 

3. Only the qualities that affect the senses are imagi- 
nable* This is the reason why though we cannot 
believe it impossible to God to make a creature 
with other organs, and more ways to convey into 
the understanding the notice of corporeal things 
than those five, as they are usually counted, 
which he has given to man yet I think it is not 
possible for any man to imagine any other quali- 
ties in bodies, howsoever constituted, whereby 
they can be taken notice of, besides sounds, tastes, 
smells, visible and tangible qualities, And had 

1 Gf. ch. iii i ; ch. vii. 7-9. 



JOHN LOCKE 



BOOK II 

mankind been made but with four senses, the 
qualities then which are the objects of the fifth 
sense had been as far from our notice, imagina- 
tion, and conception, as now any belonging to a 
sixth, seventh, or eighth sense can possibly be; 
which, whether yet some other creatures, in some 
other parts of this vast and stupendous universe, 
may not have, will be a great presumption to 
deny. He that will not set himself proudly at the 
top of all things, but will consider the immensity 
of this fabric, and the great variety that is to be 
found in this little and inconsiderable part of it 
which he has to do with, may be apt to think 
that, in other mansions of it, there may be other 
and different intelligent beings, of whose facul- 
ties he has as little knowledge or apprehension 
as a worm shut up in one drawer of a cabinet 
hath of the senses or understanding of a man; 
such variety and excellency being suitable to the 
wisdom and power of the Maker, I have here 
followed the common opinion of man's having 
but five senses; though, perhaps, there may be 
justly counted more; but either supposition 
serves equally to my present purpose. 

Chap. III. Of Simple Ideas of Sense 

i. Division of simple ideas. The better to con- 
ceive the ideas we receive from sensation, it may 
not be amiss for us to consider them, in reference 
to the different ways whereby they make their 
approaches to our minds, and make themselves 
perceivable by us. 

First, then, There are some which come into 
our minds by one sense only. 

Secondly, There are others that convey them- 
selves into the mind by more senses than one. 

Thirdly, Others that are had from reflection only. 

Fourthly, There are some that make themselves 
way, and are suggested to the mind by all the ways 
of sensation and reflection. 

We shall consider them apart under these sev- 
eral heads. 

Ideas of one sense. There are some ideas which 
have admittance only through one sense, which 
is peculiarly adapted to receive them. Thus light 
and colours, as white, red, yellow, blue; with 
their several degrees or shades and mixtures, as 
green, scarlet, purple, sea-green, and the rest, 
come in only by the eyes. All kinds of noises, 
sounds, and tones, only by the ears. The several^ 
tastes and smells, by the nose and palate. And if 
these organs, or the nerves which are the con- 
duits to convey them from without to their audi- 
ence in the brain, the ttiind's presence-room (as 
I may so call it) are any of them so disordered 
as not to perform their functions, they have no 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP. IV 

postern to be admitted by; no other way to bring 
themselves into view, and be perceived by the 
understanding. 

The most considerable of those belonging to 
the touch, are heat and cold, and solidity: all 
the rest, consisting almost wholly in the sensible 
configuration, as smooth and rough; or else, more 
or less firm adhesion of the parts, as hard and 
soft, tough and brittle, are obvious enough. 

2. Few simple ideas have names. I think it will be 
needless to enumerate all the particular simple 
ideas belonging to each sense. Nor indeed is it 
possible if we would; there being a great many 
more of them belonging to most of the senses than 
we have names for. The variety of smells, which 
are as many almost, if not more, than species of 
bodies in the world, do most of them want names. 
Sweet and stinking commonly serve our turn for 
these ideas, which in effect is little more than to 
call them pleasing or displeasing; though the 
smell of a rose and violet, both sweet, are cer- 
tainly very distinct ideas. Nor are the different 
tastes, that by our palates we receive ideas of, 
much better provided with names. Sweet, bitter, 
sour, harsh, and salt are almost all the epithets 
we have to denominate that numberless variety 
of relishes, which are to be found distinct, not 
only in almost every sort of creatures, but in the 
different parts of the same plant, fruit, or animal. 
The same may be said of colours and sounds. I 
shall, therefore, in the account of simple ideas I 
am here giving, content myself to set down only 
such as are most material to our present purpose, 
or are in themselves less apt to be taken notice of 
though they are very frequently the ingredients 
of our complex ideas; amongst which, I think, I 
may well account solidity, which therefore I shall 
treat of in the next chapter. 

Chap. IV. Idea of Solidity 

I. We receive this idea from touch. The idea of 
solidity we receive by our touch: and it arises from 
the resistance which we find in body to the en- 
trance of any other body into the place it pos- 
sesses, till it has left it. There is no idea which 
we receive more constantly from sensation than 
solidity. Whether we move or rest, in what pos- 
ture soever we are, we always feel something un- 
der us that support us, and hinders our further 
sinking downwards; and the bodies which we 
daily handle make us perceive that, whilst they 
remain between them, they do, by an insur- 
mountable force, hinder the approach of the 
parts of our hands that press them. That which 
thus hinders the approach of two bodies, when they are 
moved one towards cmotker^ I call solidify. I will not 



129 



dispute whether this acceptation of the word solid 
be nearer to its original signification than that 
which mathematicians use it in. It suffices that I 
think the common notion of solidity will allow, 
if not justify, this use of it ; but if any one think it 
better to call it impenetrability, he has my consent. 
Only I have thought the term solidity the more 
proper to express this idea, not only because of 
its vulgar use in that sense, but also because it 
carries something more of positive in it than im- 
penetrability; which is negative, and is perhaps 
more a consequence of solidity, than solidity it- 
self. This, of all other, seems the idea most inti- 
mately connected with, and essential to body; 
so as nowhere else to be found or imagined, but 
only in matter. And though our senses take no 
notice of it, but in masses of matter, of a bulk 
sufficient to cause a sensation in us: yet the mind, 
having once got this idea from such grosser sen- 
sible bodies, traces it further, and considers it, 
as well as figure, in the minutest particle of mat- 
ter that can exist; and finds it inseparably inher- 
ent in body, wherever or however modified. 

2. Solidity Jills space. This is the idea which be- 
longs to body, whereby we conceive it to fill space. 
The idea of which filling of space is, that where 
we imagine any space taken up by a solid sub- 
_stance, we conceive it so to possess it, that it ex- 
cludes all other solid substances; and will for ever 
hinder any other two bodies, that move towards 
one another in a straight line, from coming to 
touch one another, unless it removes from be- 
tween them in a line not parallel to that which 
they move in. This idea of it, the bodies which 
we ordinarily handle sufficiently furnish us with. 

3. Distinct from space. This resistance, whereby 
it keeps other bodies out of the space which it 
possesses, is so great, that no force, how great so- 
ever, can surmount it. All the bodies in the world, 
pressing a drop of water on all sides, will never 
be able to overcome the resistance which it will 
make, soft as it is, to their approaching one an- 
other, till it be removed out of their way: where- 
by our idea of solidity is distinguished both from 
pure space, which is capable neither of resistance 
nor motion; and from the ordinary idea of hard- 
ness. For a man may conceive two bodies at a 
distance, so as they may approach one another, 
without touching or displacing any solid thing, 
till their superficies come to meet; whereby, I 
think, we have the clear idea of space without 
solidity. For (not to go so far as annihilation of 
any particular body) I ask, whether a ra?n can- 
not have the idea of the motion of one single body 
alone, without any other succeeding immediately 
into its place? I think it is evident lie can: the 



130 



JOHN LOCKE 



BOOK II 



idea of motion in one body no more including 
the idea of motion in another, than the idea of a 
square figure in one body includes the idea of a 
square figure in another. I do not ask, whether 
bodies do so exist, that the motion of one body 
cannot really be without the motion of another. 
To determine this either way, is to beg the ques- 
tion for or against a vacuum. But my question is, 
whether one cannot have the idea of one body 
moved, whilst others are at rest? And I think 
this no one will deny. If so, then the place it de- 
serted gives us the idea of pure space without 
solidity; whereinto any other body may enter, 
without either resistance or protrusion of any- 
thing. When the sucker in a pump is drawn, the 
space it filled in the tube is certainly the same 
whether any other body follows the motion of 
the sucker or not: nor does it imply a contradic- 
tion that, upon the motion of one body, another 
that is only contiguous to it should not follow it. 
The necessity of such a motion is built only on 
the supposition that the world is full; but not on 
the distinct ideas of space and solidity, which are 
as different as resistance and not resistance, pro- 
trusion and not protrusion. And that men have 
ideas of space without a body, their very dis- 
putes about a vacuum plainly demonstrate, as is 
shown in another place. 1 

4. From hardness. Solidity is hereby also differ- 
enced from hardness, in that solidity consists in 
repletion, and so an utter exclusion of other bo- 
dies out of the space it possesses: but hardness, 
in a firm cohesion of the parts of matter, making 
up masses of a sensible bulk, so that the whole 
does not easily change its figure. And indeed, 
hard and soft are names that we give to things 
only in relation to the constitutions of our own 
bodies; that being generally called hard by us, 
which will put us to pain sooner than change 
figure by the pressure of any part of our bodies; 
and that, on the contrary, soft, which changes 
the situation of its parts upon an easy and un- 
painful touch. 

But this difficulty of changing the situation of 
the sensible parts amongst themselves, or of the 
figure of the whole, gives no more solidity to the 
hardest body in the world than to the softest; 
nor is an adamant one jot more solid than wa- 
ter. For, though die two flat sides of two pieces 
ofTnarble will more easily approach each other, 
between which there is nothing but water or air, 
than if Sfiere be a diamond between them; yet it 
is not that the parts of the diamond are more 
solid than those of water, or resist more; but be^ 
cause ti*e parts owatev& feeizig BUM ^easily sepa- 

l Ch. xiiiff gf-^3? u ^ ~A(^,i I ->', \ t 



rable from each other, they will, by a side mo- 
tion, be more easily removed, and give way to 
the approach of the two pieces of marble. But if 
they could be kept from making place by that 
side motion, they would eternally hinder the ap- 
proach of these two pieces of marble, as much 
as the diamond; and it would be as impossible 
by any force to surmount their resistance, as to 
surmount the resistance of the parts of a dia- 
mond. The softest body in the world will as in- 
vincibly resist the coming together of any other 
two bodies, if it be not put out of the way, but 
remain between them, as the hardest that can 
be found or imagined. He that shall fill a yield- 
ing soft body well with air or water, will quickly 
find its resistance. And he that thinks that noth- 
ing but bodies that are hard can keep his hands 
from approaching one another, may be pleased 
to make a trial, with the air inclosed in a foot- 
ball. The experiment, I have been told, was 
made at Florence, with a hollow globe of gold 
filled with water, and exactly closed; which fur- 
ther shows the solidity of so soft a body as wa- 
ter. For the golden globe thus filled, being put 
into a press, which was driven by the extreme 
force of screws, the water made itself way through 
the pores of that very close metal, and finding 
no room for a nearer approach of its particles 
within, got to the outside, where it rose like a 
dew, and so fell in drops, before the sides of the 
globe could be made to yield to the violent com- 
pression of the engine that squeezed it. 

5. On solidity depend impulse, resistance, and pro- 
trusion. By this idea of solidity is the extension of 
body distinguished from the extension of space: 
the extension of body being nothing but the 
cohesion or continuity of solid, separable, mov- 
able parts; and the extension of space, the con- 
tinuity of unsolid, inseparable, and immovable 
parts. Upon the solidity of bodies also depend 
their mutual impulse, resistance, and protru- 
sion. Of pure space then, and solidity, there are 
several (amongst which I confess myself one) 
who persuade themselves they have clear and 
distinct ideas; and that they can think on space, 
without anything in it that resists or is protruded 
by body. This is the idea of pure space, which 
they think they have as clear as any idea they 
can have of the extension of body: the idea of 
the distance between the opposite parts of a con- 
cave superficies being equally as clear without 
as with the idea of any solid parts between: and 
on the other side, they persuade themselves that 
they have, distinct from that of pure space, the 
idea of something that fills space, that can be pro- 
tvudgei by th,e impulse of *ther bodies* or resist 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP. VII 

their motion. If there be others that have not 
these two ideas distinct, but confound them, and 
make but one of them, I know not how men, 
who have the same idea under different names, 
or different ideas under the same name, can in 
that case talk with one another; any more than 
a man who, not being blind or deaf, has distinct 
ideas of the colour of scarlet and the sound of a 
trumpet, could discourse concerning scarlet col- 
our with the blind man I mentioned in another 
place, who fancied that the idea of scarlet was 
like the sound of a trumpet. 

6. What solidity is. If any one ask me, What this 
solidity is, I send him to his senses to inform him. 1 
Let him put a flint or a football between his 
hands, and then endeavour to join them, and he 
will know. If he thinks this not a sufficient expli- 
cation of solidity, what it is, and wherein it con- 
sists; I promise to tell him what it is, and where- 
in it consists, when he tells me what thinking is, 
or wherein it consists; or explains to me what ex- 
tension or motion is, which perhaps seems much 
easier. The simple ideas we have, are such as ex- 
perience teaches them us; but if, beyond that, 
we endeavour by words to make them clearer in 
the mind, we shall succeed no better than if we 
went about to clear up the darkness of a blind 
man's mind by talking; and to discourse into 
him the ideas of light and colours. The reason of 
this I shall show in another place. 2 

Chap. V. Of Simple Ideas of Divers Senses 

Ideas received both by seeing and touching. The 
ideas we get by more than one sense are, of space 
or extension, figure, rest, and motion. For these make 
perceivable impressions, both on the eyes and 
touch; and we can receive and convey into our 
minds the ideas of the extension, figure, motion, 
and rest of bodies, both by seeing and feeling. 
But having occasion to speak more at large of 
these in another place, 3 I here only enumerate 
them. 

Chap. VI. Of Simple Ideas of Reflection 

1 . Simple ideas are the operations of mind about its 
other ideas. The mind receiving the ideas men- 
tioned in the foregoing chapters from without, 
when it turns its view inward upon itself, and 
observes its own actions about those ideas it has, 
takes from thence other ideas, which are as ca- 
pable to be the objects of its contemplation as any 
of those it received from foreign things. 

2. The idea of perception, and idea of willing, we 
have from reflection. The two great and principal 

1 Gf. Locke's Third Letter to Stfflingfleet, p. 301, 
*Bk. III. ch. it Ch. xiii, xv. 



actions of the mind, which are most frequently 
considered, and which are so frequent that ev- 
ery one that pleases may take notice of them in 
himself, are these two: 

Perception,* or Thinking; and 
Volition, or Willing. 

The power of thinking is called the Under- 
standing, and the power of volition is called the 
Will; and these two powers or abilities in the 
mind are denominated faculties. 

Of some of the modes of these simple ideas of 
reflection, such as are remembrance, discerning, rea- 
soning, judging, knowledge, faith, &c., I shall have 
occasion to speak hereafter. 5 

Chap. VII. Of Simple Ideas of both 
Sensation and Reflection 

1. Ideas of pleasure and pain. There be other sim- 
ple ideas which convey themselves into the mind 
by all the ways of sensation and reflection, viz. 
pleasure or delight, and its opposite, pain, or un- 
easiness; power; existence; unity. 

2. Mix with almost all our other ideas. Delight or 
uneasiness, one or other of them, join themselves 
to almost all our ideas both of sensation and re- 
flection: and there is scarce any affection of our 
senses from without, any retired thought of our 
mind within, which is not able to produce in us 
pleasure or pain. By pleasure and pain, I would 
be understood to signify, whatsoever delights or 
molests us; whether it arises from the thoughts 
of our minds, or anything operating on our 
bodies. For, whether we call it satisfaction, de- 
light, pleasure, happiness, &c., on the one side, 
or uneasiness, trouble, pain, torment, anguish, 
misery, &c., on the other, they are still but dif- 
ferent degrees of the same thing, and belong to 
the ideas of pleasure and pain, delight or un- 
easiness; which are the names I shall most com- 
monly use for those two sorts of ideas. 

3. As motives of our actions. The infinite wise 
Author of our being, having given us the power 
over several parts of our bodies, to move or keep 
them at rest as we think fit; and also, by the mo- 
tion of them, to move ourselves and other con- 
tiguous bodies, in which consist all the actions of 
our body: having also given a power to our 
minds, in several instances, to choose, amongst 
its ideas, which it will think on, and to pursue 
the inquiry of this or that subject with consider- 
ation and attention, to excite us to these actions 
of thinking and motion that we are capable of, 

<C Bk. II. ch. xxL 5. 

6 Sec ch. x, xi; and Bk. IV, ch. xvii, xiv-xvi, I- 
xiii, xviii. 



132 

has been pleased to join to several thoughts, and 
several sensations a perception of delight. If this 
were wholly separated from all our outward sen- 
sations, and inward thoughts, we should have no 
reason to prefer one thought or action to another; 
negligence to attention, or motion to rest. And 
so we should neither stir our bodies, nor employ 
our minds, but let our thoughts (if I may so call 
it) run adrift, without any direction or design, 
and suffer the ideas of our minds, like unregard- 
ed shadows, to make their appearances there, as 
ithappened, without attending to them. In which 
state man, however furnished with the faculties 
of understanding and will, would be a very idle, 
inactive creature, and pass his time only in a 
lazy, lethargic dream. It has therefore pleased 
our wise Creator to annex to several objects, and 
the ideas which we receive from them, as also to 
several of our thoughts, a concomitant pleasure, 
and that in several objects, to several degrees, 
that those faculties which he had endowed us 
with might not remain wholly idle and unem- 
ployed by us. 

4. An end and use of pain. Pain has the same effi- 
cacy and use to set us on work that pleasure has, 
we being as ready to employ our faculties to avoid 
that, as to pursue this: 1 only this is worth our 
consideration, that pain is often produced by 
the same objects and ideas that produce pleasure 
in us. This their near conjunction, which makes 
us often feel pain in the sensations where we ex- 
pected pleasure, gives us new occasion of ad- 
miring the wisdom and goodness of our Maker, 
who, designing the preservation of our being, 
has annexed pain to the application of many 
things to our bodies, to warn us of the harm that 
they will do, and as advices to withdraw from 
them. But he, not designing our preservation 
barely, but the preservation of every part and 
organ in its perfection, hath in many cases an- 
nexed pain to those very ideas which delight us. 
Thus heat, that is very agreeable to us in one 
degree, by a little greater increase of it proves 
no ordinary torment: and the most pleasant of 
all sensible objects, light itself, if there be too 
much of it, if increased beyond a due proportion 
to our eyes, causes a very painful sensation. 
Which is wisely and favourably so ordered by 
nature, that when any object does, by the vehe- 
mency of its operation, disorder the instruments 
of sensation, whose structures cannot but be very 
nice and delicate, we might, by the pain, be 
warned to withdraw, before the organ be quite 
put out of order, and so be unfitted for its proper 
function for the future. The consideration of 

1 See chh. xx and xxi. 



JOHN LOCKE 



BOOK II 

those objects that produce it may well persuade 
us, that this is the end or use of pain. For, though 
great light be insufferable to our eyes, yet the 
highest degree of darkness does not at all dis- 
ease them: because that, causing no disorderly 
motion in it, leaves that curious organ unharmed 
in its natural state. But yet excess of cold as well 
as heat pains us: because it is equally destruc- 
tive to that temper which is necessary to the 
preservation of life, and the exercise of the sev- 
eral functions of the body, and which consists in 
a moderate degree of warmth; or, if you please, 
a motion of the insensible parts of our bodies, 
confined within certain bounds. 

5. Another end. Beyond all this, we may find 
another reason why God hath scattered up and 
down several degrees of pleasure and pain, in all 
the things that environ and affect us; and blended 
them together in almost all that our thoughts 
and senses have to do with; that we, finding 
imperfection, dissatisfaction, and want of com- 
plete happiness, in all the enjoyments which the 
creatures can afford us, might be led to seek it 
in the enjoyment of Him with whom there is 
fullness of joy, and at whose right hand are 
pleasures for evermore. 

6. Goodness of God in annexing pleasure and pain 
to our other ideas. Though what I have here said 
may not, perhaps, make the ideas of pleasure 
and pain clearer to us than our own experience 
does, which is the only way that we are capable 
of having them; yet the consideration of the rea- 
son why they are annexed to so many- other 
ideas, serving to give us due sentiments of the 
wisdom and goodness of the Sovereign Disposer 
of all things, may not be unsuitable to the main 
end of these inquiries: the knowledge and ven- 
eration of him being the chief end of all our 
thoughts, and the proper business of all under- 
standings. 

7. Ideas of existence and unity. Existence and Unity 
are two other ideas that are suggested to the un- 
derstanding by every object without, and every 
idea within. When ideas are in our minds, we 
consider them as being .actually there, as well as 
we consider things to be actually without us; 
which is, that they exist, or have existence. 2 And 
whatever we can consider as one thing, whether 
a real being or idea, suggests to the understand- 
ing the idea of unity. 

8. Idea of power. Power also is another of those 
simple ideas which we receive from sensation 
and reflection. For, observing in ourselves that 
we do and can think, and that we can at pleas- 

2 Cf. Berkeley. Principles, & 80: also the letter to 
S. Bold (16 May, 1699). 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP. VIII 

ure move several parts of our bodies which were 
at rest; the effects, also, that natural bodies are 
able to produce in one another, occurring every 
moment to our senses, we both these ways get 
the idea of power. 1 

9. Idea of succession. Besides these there is an- 
other idea, which, though suggested by our 
senses, yet is more constantly offered to us by 
what passes in our minds; and that is the idea of 
succession. For if we look immediately into our- 
selves, and reflect on what is observable there, 
we shall find our ideas always, whilst we are 
awake, or have any thought, passing in train, 
one going and another coming, without inter- 
mission. 

10. Simple ideas the materials oj all our knowledge. 
These, if they are not all, are at least (as I think) 
the most considerable of those simple ideas which 
the mind has, and out of which is made all its 
other knowledge; all which it receives only by 
the two forementioned ways of sensation and 
reflection. 

Nor let any one think these too narrow bounds 
for the capacious mind of man to expatiate in, 
which takes its flight further than the stars, and 
cannot be confined by the limits of the world; 
that extends its thoughts often even beyond the 
utmost expansion of Matter, and makes excur- 
sions into that incomprehensible Inane. I grant 
all this, but desire any one to assign any simple 
idea which is not received from one of those in- 
lets before mentioned, or any complex idea not 
made out of those simple ones. Nor will it be so 
strange to think these few simple ideas sufficient 
to employ the quickest thought, or largest ca- 
pacity; and to furnish the materials of all that 
various knowledge, and more various fancies 
and opinions of all mankind, if we consider how 
many words may be made out of the various 
composition of twenty-four letters; or if, going 
one step further, we will but reflect on the vari- 
ety of combinations that may be made with 
barely one of the above-mentioned ideas, viz. 
number, whose stock is inexhaustible and truly 
infinite: and what a large and immense field 
doth extension alone afford the mathematicians? 

Chap. VIII. Some further considerations 
concerning our Simple Ideas of Sensation 

i. Positive ideas from privative coasts. Concern- 
ing the simple ideas of Sensation, it is to be con- 
sidered, that whatsoever is so constituted in 
nature as to be able, by affecting our senses, to 
cause any perception in the mind, doth thereby 

1 Gf. ch. xxi in which "simple modes" of the sim- 
ple idea of power are described. 



133 



produce in the understanding a simple idea; 
which, whatever be the external cause of it, 
when it comes to be taken notice of by our dis- 
cerning faculty, it is by the mind looked on and 
considered there to be a real positive idea in the 
understanding, as much as any other whatso- 
ever; though, perhaps, the cause of it be but a 
privation of the subject 

2. Ideas in the mind distinguished from that in 
things which gives rise to them* Thus the ideas of 
heat and cold, light and darkness, white and 
black, motion and rest, are equally clear and 
positive ideas in the mind; though, perhaps, 
some of the causes which produce them are barely 
privations, in those subjects from whence our 
senses derive those ideas. These the understand- 
ing, in its view of them, considers all as distinct 
positive ideas, without taking notice of the causes 
that produce them: which is an inquiry not be- 
longing to the idea, as it is in the understanding, 
but to the nature of the things existing without 
us. These are two very different things, and care- 
fully to be distinguished; it being one thing to 
perceive and know the idea of white or black, 
and quite another to examine what kind of par- 
ticles they must be, and how ranged in the su- 
perficies, to make any object appear white or 
black. 

3. We may have the ideas when we are ignorant of 
their physical causes. A painter or dyer who never 
inquired into then- causes hath the ideas of white 
and black, and other colours, as clearly, per- 
fectly, and distinctly in his understanding, and 
perhaps more distinctly, than the philosopher 
who hath busied himself in considering their 
natures, and thinks he knows how far either of 
them is, in its cause, positive or privative; and 
the idea of black is no less positive in his mind 
than that of white, however the cause of that 
colour hi the external object may be only a pri- 
vation. 

4. Why a privative cause in nature may occasion a 
positive idea. If it were the design of my present 
undertaking to inquire into the natural causes 
and manner of perception, 1 I should offer this 
as a reason- why a privative cause might, in some 
cases at least, produce a positive idea; viz. that 
all sensation being produced in us only by dif- 
ferent degrees and modes of motion in our ani- 
mal spirits, variously agitated by external ob- 
jects, the abatement of any former motion must 
as necessarily produce a new sensation as the 
variation or increase of it; and so introduce a 
new idea, which depends only on a different 
motion of the animal spirits in that organ. 

*Cf. IntrodL2, 



JOHN LOCKE 



134 

5. Negative names need not be meaningless. But 
whether this be so or not I will not here deter- 
mine 3 but appeal to every one's own experience, 
whether the shadow of a man, though it consists 
of nothing but the absence of light (and the 
more the absence of light is, the more discerni- 
ble is the shadow) does not, when a man looks 
on it, cause as clear and positive idea in his 
mind, as a man himself, though covered over 
with clear sunshine? And the picture of a shad- 
ow is a positive thing. Indeed, we have negative 
names, which stand not directly for positive 
ideas, but for their absence, such as insipid, si- 
lence, nihil, &c.; which words denote positive 
ideas, v.g, taste, sound, being, with a signification 
of their absence. 

6. Whether any ideas are due to causes redly priva- 
tive. And thus one may truly be said to see dark- 
ness. For, supposing a hole perfectly dark, from 
whence no light is reflected, it is certain one may 
see the figure of it, or it may be painted; or 
whether the ink I write with makes any other 
idea, is a question. The privative causes I have 
here assigned of positive ideas are according to 
the common opinion; but, in truth, it will be 
hard to determine whether there be really any 
ideas from a privative cause, till it be deter- 
mined, whether rest be any more a privation 
than motion. 

^ 7. Ideas in the mind, qualities in bodies. To dis- 
cover the nature of our ideas the better, and to 
discourse of them intelligibly, it will be con- 
venient to distinguish them as they are ideas or 
perceptions in our minds; and as they are modifications 
of matter in the bodies that cause such perceptions in us: 
that so we may not think (as perhaps usually is 
done) that they are exactly the images and re- 
semblances of something inherent in the sub- 
ject; most of those of sensation being in the mind 
no more the likeness of something existing with- 
out us, than the names that stand for them are 
the likeness of our ideas, which yet upon hearing 
they are apt to excite in us. 

8. Our ideas and the qualities of bodies. Whatsoever 
the mind perceives in itself, or is the immediate 
object of perception, thought, or understanding, 
that I cal ideal and the power to produce any 
idea in our mind, I call quality of the subject 
wherein that power is. Thus a snowball having 
the power to produce in us the ideas of white, 
cold, and round, the power to produce those 
ideas in us, as they are in the snowball, I call 
Dualities; and as tfoey are sensations or percep- 
tions in our understandings, I call them ideas; 
which ideas, if I speak of somatinies as in the 
things themselves, I would te ubdsa^tood to 



BOOK II 

mean those qualities in the objects which pro- 
duce them in us. 

g. Primary qualities of bodies. Qualities thus 
considered in bodies are, 

First, such as are utterly inseparable from the 
body, in what state soever it be; and such as in 
all the alterations and changes it suffers, all the 
force can be used upon it, it constantly keeps; 
and such as sense constantly finds in every par- 
ticle of matter which has bulk enough to be per- 
ceived; and the mind finds inseparable from 
every particle of matter, though less than to 
make itself singly be perceived by our senses: 
v.g. Take a grain of wheat, divide it into two 
parts; each part has still solidity, extension, fig- 
ure, and mobility: divide it again, and it retains 
still the same qualities; and so divide it on, till 
the parts become insensible; 1 they must retain 
still each of them all those qualities. For division 
(which is all that a mill, or pestle, or any other 
body, does upon another, in reducing it to in- 
sensible parts) can never take away either solid- 
ity, extension, figure, or mobility from any body, 
but only makes two or more distinct separate 
masses of matter, of that which was but one be- 
fore; all which distinct masses, reckoned as so 
many distinct bodies, after division , make a cer- 
tain number. These I call original or primary 
qualities of body, which I think we may observe 
to produce simple ideas in us, viz. solidity, ex- 
tension, figure, motion or rest, and number. 

10. Secondary qualities of bodies. Secondly, such 
qualities which in truth are nothing in the ob- 
jects themselves but power 2 to produce various 
sensations in us by their primary qualities, i.e. 
by the bulk, figure, texture, and motion of their 
insensible parts, 3 as colours, sounds, tastes, &c. 
These I call secondary qualities. To these might be 
added a third sort, which are allowed to be barely 
powers; though they are as much real qualities 
in the subject as those which I, to comply with 
the common way of speaking, call qualities, but 
for distinction, secondary qualities. For the power 
in fire to produce a new colour, or consistency, 
in wax or clay, * by its primary qualities, is as 
much a quality in fire, as the power it has to 
produce in me a new idea or sensation of warmth 
or burning, which I felt not before, by the 
same primary qualities, viz. the bulk, texture, 
and motion of its insensible parts. 

1 1. How bodies produce ideas in us. 4 The next 

1 Cf. Berkeley, Principles^ | 123; etc. 

2 C ch. viL J 8. 

Cf. Bk. IV. ch. in. u. 

*QL Locke's, Reply to Secmd Letter, (1699), p. 
468; also Bfc. IV, ch. iii. 6. ' 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP. VIII 

thing to be considered is, how bodies produce 
ideas in us; and that is manifestly by impulse, 
the only way which we can conceive bodies to 
operate in. 1 

12. By motions, external, and in our organism. If 
then 2 external objects be not united to our minds 
when they produce ideas therein; and yet we 
perceive these original qualities in such of them 
as singly fall under our senses, it is evident that 
some motion must be thence continued by our 
nerves, or animal spirits, by some parts of our 
bodies, to the brains or the seat of sensation, 
there to produce in our minds the particular 
ideas we have of them. And since the extension, 
figure, number, and motion of bodies of an ob- 
servable bigness, may be perceived at a dis- 
tance by the sight, it is evident some singly im- 
perceptible bodies must come from them to the 
eyes, and thereby convey to the brain some mo- 
tion; which produces these ideas which we have 
of them in us. 

13. How secondary qualities produce their ideas. 
After the same manner that the ideas of these 
original qualities are produced in us, we may 
conceive that the ideas of secondary qualities are 
also produced, viz. by the operation of insensi- 
ble particles on our senses. For, it being mani- 
fest that there are bodies and good store of bod- 
ies, each whereof are so small, that we cannot 
by any of our senses discover either their bulk, 
figure, or motion, as is evident in the particles 
of the air and water, and others extremely smaller 
than those; perhaps as much smaller than the 
particles of air and water, as the particles of air 
and water are smaller than peas or hail-stones; 
let us suppose at present that the different 
motions and figures, bulk and number, of such 
particles, affecting the several organs of our 
senses, produce in us those different sensations 
which we have from the colours and smells of 
bodies; v.g. that a violet, by the impulse of such 
insensible particles of matter, of peculiar figures 
and bulks, and in different degrees and modifi- 
cations of their motions, causes the ideas of the 
blue colour, and sweet scent of that flower to be 
produced hi our minds. It being no more im- 
possible tp conceive that God should annex such 
ideas to such motions, with which they have no 
similitude, than that he should annex the idea 
of pain to the motion of a piece of steel dividing 
our flesh, with which that idea hath no resem- 
blance. 

14. They depend on the primary qualities. What I 
have said concerning colours and smells may be 
un^i^rstoocl also of tastes and sounds, and other 



135 



the like sensible qualities; which, whatever real- 
ity we by mistake attribute to them, are in truth 
nothing in the objects themselves, but powers to 
produce various sensations in us; and depend 
on those primary qualities, viz. bulk, figure, 
texture, and motion of parts as I have said. 

15. Ideas of primary qualities are resemblances; of 
secondary, not. From whence I think it easy to 
draw this observation, that the ideas of prim- 
ary qualities of bodies are resemblances of them, 
and their patterns do really exist in the bodies 
themselves, but the ideas produced in us by 
these secondary qualities have no resemblance 
of them at all. There is nothing like our ideas, 
existing in the bodies themselves. They are, hi 
the bodies we denominate from them, only a 
power to produce those sensations hi us: and 
what is sweet, blue, or warm in idea, is but the 
certain bulk, figure, and motion of the insensi- 
ble parts, in the bodies themselves, which we 
call so. 

1 6. Examples. Flame is denominated hot and 
light; snow, white and cold; and manna, white 
and sweet, from the ideas they produce in us. 
Which qualities are commonly thought to be 
the same in those bodies that those ideas are in 
us, the one the perfect resemblance of the other, 
as they are in a mirror, and it would by most 
men be judged very extravagant if one should 
say otherwise. And yet he that will consider that 
the same fire that, at one distance produces in 
us the sensation of warmth, does, at a nearer 
approach, produce in us the far different sensa- 
tion of pain, 8 ought to bethink himself what rea- 
son he has to say that this idea of warmth, 
which was produced hi him by the fire, is actU" 
ally in the fire; and his idea of pain, which the 
same fire produced in him the same way, is not 
hi the fire. Why are whiteness and coldness in 
snow, and pain not, when it produces the one 
and the other idea in us; and can do neither, 
but by the bulk, figure, number, and motion of 
its solid parts? 

1 7. The ideas of the primary alone really exist. The 
particular bulk, number, figure, and motion of 
the parts of fire or snow are really in them, 
whether any one's senses perceive them or no: 
and therefore they may be called real qualities, 
because they really exist in those bodies. But 
light, heat, whiteness, or coldness, are no more 
really hi them than sickness or pain is in man^a. 
Take away the sensation of them; let not the 
eyes see light or colours, nor the ears hear 
sounds; let the palate not taste, nor the nose 

* Gf, Hume, Enquiry Concerning Human Under- 
J -"- - sect. xiL pt. i. 



136 



JOHN LOCKE 



smell, and all colours, tastes, odours, and sounds, 
as they are such particular ideas, vanish and cease, 
and are reduced to their causes, i.e. bulk, figure, 
and motion of parts. 

1 8. The secondary exist in things only as modes of 
the primary. A piece of manna of a sensible bulk 
is able to produce in us the idea of a round or 
square figure; and by being removed from one 
place to another, the idea of motion. This idea 
of motion represents it as it really is in manna 
moving: a circle or square are the same, whether 
in idea or existence, in the mind or in the man- 
na. And this, both motion and figure, are really 
in the manna, whether we take notice of them or 
no: this everybody is ready to agree to. Besides, 
manna, by the bulk, figure, texture, and motion 
of its parts, has a power to produce the sensa- 
tions of sickness, and sometimes of acute pains 
or gripings in us. That these ideas of sickness 
and pain are not in the manna, but effects of its 
operations on us, and are nowhere when we feel 
them not; this also every one readily agrees to. 
And yet men are hardly to be brought to think 
that sweetness and whiteness are not really in 
manna; which are but the effects of the opera- 
tions of manna, by the motion, size, and figure 
of its particles, on the eyes and palate: as the 
pain and sickness caused by manna are con- 
fessedly nothing but the effects of its operations 
on the stomach and guts, by the size, motion, 
and figure of its insensible parts, (for by nothing 
else can a body operate, as has been proved) : as 
if it could not operate on the eyes and palate, 
and thereby produce in the mind particular dis- 
tinct ideas, which in itself it has not, as well as 
we allow it can operate on the guts and stom- 
ach, and thereby produce distinct ideas, which 
in itself it has not. These ideas, being all effects 
of the operations of manna on several parts of 
our bodies, by the size, figure number, and mo- 
tion of its parts; why those produced by the 
eyes and palate should rather be thought to be 
really in the manna, than those produced by 
the stomach and guts; or why the pain and sick- 
ness, ideas that are the effect of manna, should 
be thought to be nowhere when they are not 
felt; and yet the sweetness and whiteness, effects 
of the same manna on other parts of the body, 
by ways equally as unknown, should be thought 
to exist in the manna, when they are not seen or 
tasted, would need some reason to explain. 

19. Examples. Let us consider the red and 
white colours in porphyry. Hinder light from 
striking on it, and its coknars vanish; it no longer 
produces any such ideas in us: upon the return 
of light it produces these appearances on us 



BOOK II 

again. Can any one think any real alterations 
are made in the porphyry by the presence or 
absence of light; and that those ideas of white- 
ness and redness are really in porphyry in the 
light, when it is plain it has no colour in the dark? 
It has, indeed, such a configuration of particles, 
both night and day, as are apt, by the rays of 
light rebounding from some parts of that hard 
stone, to produce in us the idea of redness, and 
from others the idea of whiteness; but whiteness 
or redness are not in it at any time, but such a 
texture that hath the power to produce such a 
sensation in us. 

20. Pound an almond, and the clear white 
colour will be altered into a dirty one, and the 
sweet taste into an oily one. What real altera- 
tion can the beating of the pestle make in any 
body, but an alteration of the texture of it? 

21. Explains how water felt as cold by one hand 
may be warm to the other. Ideas being thus distin- 
guished and understood, we may be able to give 
an account how the same water, at the same 
time, may produce the idea of cold by one hand 
and of heat by the other: whereas it is impossi- 
ble that the same water, if those ideas were really 
in it, should at the same time be both hot and 
cold. For, if we imagine warmth, as it is in our 
hands, to be nothing but a certain sort and de- 
gree of motion in the minute particles of our 
nerves or animal spirits, we may understand 
how it is possible that the same water may, at 
the same time, produce the sensations of heat in 
one hand and cold in the other; which yet figure 
never does, that never producing the idea of a 
square by one hand which has produced the 
idea of a globe by another. But if the sensation 
of heat and cold be nothing but the increase or 
diminution of the motion of the minute parts of 
our bodies, caused by the corpuscles of any oth- 
er body, it is easy to be understood, that if that 
motion be greater in one hand than in the other; 
if a body be applied to the two hands, which has 
in its minute particles a greater motion than in 
those of one of the hands, and a less than in 
those of the other, it will increase the motion of 
the one hand and lessen it in the other; and so 
cause the different sensations of heat and cold 
that depend thereon. 

22. An excursion into natural philosophy. I have in 
what just goes before been engaged in physical 
inquiries a little further than perhaps I intended. 
But, it being necessary to make the nature of 
sensation a little understood; and to make the 
difference between the qualities in bodies, and 
the ideas produced by them in the mind, to be 
distinctly conceived, without which it were im- 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP. VIII 

possible to discourse intelligibly of them; I 
hope I shall be pardoned this little excursion 
into natural philosophy; it being necessary in 
our present inquiry to distinguish the primary 
and real qualities of bodies, which are always in 
them (viz. solidity, extension, figure, number, 
and motion, or rest, and are sometimes per- 
ceived by us, viz. when the bodies they are in 
are big enough singly to be discerned), from 
those secondary and imputed qualities, which are 
but the powers of several combinations of those 
primary ones, when they operate without being 
distinctly discerned; 1 whereby we may also 
come to know what ideas are, and what are not, 
resemblances of something really existing in the 
bodies we denominate from them. 

23. Three sorts of qualities in bodies. The quali- 
ties, then, that are in bodies, rightly considered, 
are of three sorts: 

First, The bulk, figure, number, situation, and 
motion or rest of their solid parts. Those are in 
them, whether we perceive them or not; and 
when they are of that size that we can discover 
them, we have by these an idea of the thing as it 
is in itself; as is plain in artificial things. These I 
call primary qualities. 

Secondly, The power that is in any body, by 
reason of its insensible primary qualities, 2 to op- 
erate after a peculiar manner on any of our senses, 
and thereby produce in us the different ideas of 
several colours, sounds, smells, tastes, &c. These 
are usually called sensible qualities. 

Thirdly, The power that is in any body, by 
reason of the particular constitution of its pri- 
mary qualities, to make such a change in the 
bulk, figure, texture, and motion of another body, 
as to make it operate on our senses differently 
from what it did before. Thus the sun has a 
power to make wax white, and fire to make lead 
fluid. These are usually called powers. 

The first of these, as has been said, I think 
may be properly called real, original, or primary 
qualities; because they are in the things them- 
selves, whether they are perceived or not: and 
upon their different modifications it is that the 
secondary qualities depend. 

The other two are only powers to act differ- 
ently upon other things: which powers result 
from the different modifications of those primary 
qualities. 

24. The first are resemblances; the second thought to 
be resemblances^ but are not; the third neither are nor 
are thought so. But, though the two latter sorts of 
qualities are powers barely, and nothing but 

iQF. Bk. ILch. xxiiL u. 
*Cf. ch. xsx. 2. 



137 



powers, relating to several other bodies, and re- 
sulting from the different modifications of the 
original qualities, yet they are generally other- 
wise thought of. For the second sort, viz, the pow- 
ers to produce several ideas in us, by our senses, 
are looked upon as real qualities in the things 
thus affecting us: but the third sort are called and 
esteemed barely powers, v.g. The idea of heat or 
light, which we receive by our eyes, or touch, 
from the sun, are commonly thought real quali- 
ties existing in the sun, and something more than 
mere powers in it. But when we consider the sun 
in reference to wax, which it melts or blanches, 
we look on the whiteness and softness produced 
in the wax, not as qualities in the sun, but ef- 
fects produced by powers in it. Whereas, if right- 
ly considered, these qualities of light and warmth, 
which are perceptions in me when I am warmed 
or enlightened by the sun, are no otherwise in 
the sun, than the changes made in the wax, 
when it is blanched or melted, are in the sun. 
They are all of them equally powers in the sun, de- 
pending on its primary qualities; whereby it is able, 
in the one case, so to alter the bulk, figure, tex- 
ture, or motion of some of the insensible parts of 
my eyes or hands, as thereby to produce in me 
the idea of light or heat; and in the other, it is 
able so to alter the bulk, figure, texture, or mo- 
tion of the insensible parts of the wax, as to make 
them fit to produce in me the distinct ideas of 
white and fluid. 

25. Why the secondary are ordinarily taken for real 
qualities, and not for bare powers. The reason why 
the one are ordinarily taken for real qualities, 
and the other only for bare powers, seems to be, 
because the ideas we have of distinct colours, 
sounds, &c., containing nothing at all in them of 
bulk, figure, or motion, we are not apt to think 
them the effects of these primary qualities; which 
appear not, to our senses, to operate in their pro- 
duction, and with which, they have not any appar- 
ent congruity or conceivable connexion. Hence 
it is that we are so forward to imagine, that those 
ideas are the resemblances of something really 
existing in the objects themselves: since sensa- 
tion discovers nothing of bulk, figure, or motion 
of parts in their production; nor can reason show 
how bodies, by their bulk, figure, and motion, should 
produce in the mind the ideas of blue or yellow, 
&c. But, in the other case, in the operations of 
bodies changing the qualities one of another, we 
plainly discover that the quality produced hath 
commonly no resemblance with anything in the 
thing .producing it; wherefore we look on it as a 
bare effect of power. For, through receiving the 
idea of heat or light from the sun, we are apt to 



138 



JOHN LOCKE 



think it is a perception and resemblance of such 
a quality in the sun; yet when we see wax, or a 
fair face, receive change of colour from the sun, 
we cannot imagine that to be the reception or re- 
semblance of anything in the sun, because we 
find not those different colours in the sun itself. 
For, our senses being able to observe a likeness 
or unlikeness of sensible qualities in two differ- 
ent external objects, we forwardly enough con- 
clude the producton of any sensible quality in 
any subject to be an effect of bare power, and 
not the communication of any quality which 
was really in the efficient, when we find no such 
sensible quality in the thing that produced it. 
But our senses, not being able to discover any 
unlikeness between the idea produced in us, and 
the quality of the object producing it, we are apt 
to imagine that our ideas are resemblances of 
something in the objects, and not the effects of 
certain powers placed in the modification of 
their primary qualities, with which primary 
qualities the ideas produced in us have no re- 
semblance. 

26. Secondary qualities twofold; first, immediately 
perceivable; secondly, mediately perceivable. To con- 
clude. Besides those before-mentioned primary 
qualities in bodies, viz. bulk, figure, extension, 
number, and motion of their solid parts; all the 
rest, whereby we take notice of bodies, and dis- 
tinguish them one from another, are nothing 
else but several powers in them, depending on 
those primary qualities; whereby they are fitted, 
either by immediately operating on our bodies 
to produce several different ideas in us; or else, 
by operating on other bodies, so to change their 
primary qualities as to render them capable of 
.producing ideas in us different from what before 
they did. The former of these, I think, may be 
called secondary qualities immediately perceivable: 
the latter, secondary qualities, mediately perceiv- 
able. 

Chap. IX, Of Perception 

I. Perception the first simple idea of refection. PER- 
CEPTION, 1 as it is the first faculty of the mind ex- 
ercised about our ideas; so it is the first and sim- 
plest idea we have from reflection, and is by 
some caEed thinking in general. Though think- 
ing, IB the propriety of the English tongue, sig- 
nifies tliat sort of operation in the mind about its 
ideas, wherein the mind is active; where it, with 
some degree of voluntary attention, considers 
anythrag. For in bare naked perception, the mind 

*Gf.Bk. IV.cfa. L a, ch. Hi. 1 14, &c. See also 
Bk. II. cb, *xL f 'Jjlpr $hree different meanings of 
"perceptiaaP *" 



BOOK II 

is, for the most part, only passive; and what it 
perceives, it cannot avoid perceiving. 

2. Reflection alone can give us the idea of what 
perception is. What perception is, every one will 
know better by reflecting on what he does him- 
self, when he sees, hears, feels, &c., or thinks, 
than by any discourse of mine. Whoever re- 
flects on what passes in his own mind cannot 
miss it. And if he does not reflect, all the words 
in the world cannot make him have any notion 
of it. 

3. Arises in sensation only when the mind notices the 
organic impression. This is certain, that whatever 
alterations are made in the body, if they reach 
not the mind; whatever impressions are made 
on the outward parts, if they are not taken notice 
of within, there is no perception. Fire may burn 
our bodies with no other effect than it does a bil- 
let, unless the motion be continued to the brain, 
and there the sense of heat, or idea of pain, be 
produced in the mind; wherein consists actual 
perception. 

4. Impulse on the organ insufficient. How often 
may a man observe in himself, that whilst his 
mind is intently employed in the contemplation 
of some objects, and curiously surveying some 
ideas that are there, it takes no notice of impres- 
sions of sounding bodies made upon the organ 
of hearing, with the same alteration that uses to 
be for the producing the idea of sound? A suffi- 
cient impulse there may be on the organ; but it 
not reaching the observation of the mind, there 
follows no perception: and though the motion 
that uses to produce the idea of sound be made 
in the ear, yet no sound is heard. Want of sensa- 
tion, in this case, is not through any defect in 
the organ, or that the man's ears are less affected 
than at other times when he does hear: but that 
which uses to produce the idea, though con- 
veyed in by the usual organ, not being taken 
notice of in the understanding, and so imprint- 
ing no idea in the mind, there follows no sensa- 
tion. So that wherever there is sense or percep- 
tion, there some idea is actually produced, and 
present in the understanding. 

5. Children, though they may have ideas in the womb, 
have none innate. Therefore I doubt not but chil- 
dren, by the exercise of their senses about ob- 
jects that affect them in the womb, receive some 
few ideas before they are born, as the unavoida- 
ble effects, either of the bodies that environ them, 
or else of those wants or diseases they suffer; 
amongst which (if one may conjecture concern- 
ing things not very capable of examination) I 
think the ideas of hunger and yrarmth are two: 
\vhich probably are some of the first that chil- 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP. IX 

dren have, and which they scarce ever part with 
again. 

6. The effects of sensation in the womb. But though 
it be reasonable to imagine that children receive 
some ideas before they come into the world, yet 
these simple ideas are far from those innate princi- 
ples which some contend for, and we, above, 
have rejected. These here mentioned, being the 
effects of sensation, are only from some affec- 
tions of the body, which happen to them there, 
and so depend on something exterior to the mind; 
no otherwise differing in their manner of pro- 
duction from other ideas derived from sense, but 
only in the precedency of time. Whereas those 
innate principles are supposed to be quite of 
another nature; not coming into the mind by 
any accidental alterations in, or operations on 
the body; but, as it were, original characters im- 
pressed upon it, in the very first moment of its 
being and constitution. 

7. Which ideas appear first, is not evident^ nor im- 
portant. As there are some ideas which we may 
reasonably suppose may be introduced into the 
minds of children in the womb, subservient to 
the necessities of their life and being there: so, 
after they are born, those ideas are the earliest 
imprinted which happen to be the sensible qual- 
ities which first occur to them; amongst which 
light is not the least considerable, nor of the 
weakest efficacy. And how covetous the mind is 
to be furnished with all such ideas as have no 
pain accompanying them, may be a little guessed 
by what is observable in children new-born; who 
always turn their eyes to that part from whence 
the light comes, lay them how you please. But 
the ideas that are most familiar at first, being 
various according to the divers circumstances of 
children's first entertainment in the world, the 
order wherein the several ideas come at first in- 
to the mind is very various, and uncertain also; 
neither is it much material to know it. 

8. Sensations often changed by the judgment. We 
are further to consider concerning perception, 
that the ideas we receive by sensation are often, 
in grown people, altered by the judgment, with- 
out our taking notice of it. When we set before 
our eyes a round globe of any uniform colour, 
v.g. gold, alabaster, or jet, it is certain that the 
idea thereby imprinted on our mind is of a flat 
circle, variously shadowed, with, several degrees 
of light and brightness coming to our eyes. But 
we having, by use, been accustomed to perceive 
what kind of appearance convex bodies are wont 
to spake in us; what alterations are made in the 
reflections of light by the difference of the sensi- 
ble figum of bodies;: the judgment presently, 



139 



by an habitual custom, alters the appearances 
into their causes. So that from that which is 
truly variety of shadow or colour, collecting the 
figure, it makes it pass for a mark of figure, and 
frames to itself the perception of a convex figure 
and an uniform colour; when the idea we re- 
ceive from thence is only a plane variously col- 
oured, as is evident in painting. To which pur- 
pose I shall here insert a problem of that very 
ingenious and studious promoter of real knowl- 
edge, the learned and worthy Mr. Molyneux, 
which he was pleased to send me in a letter some 
months since; and it is this: "Suppose a man 
born blind, and now adult, and taught by his 
touch to distinguish between a cube and a sphere 
of the same metal, and nighly of the same big- 
ness, so as to tell, when he felt one and the other, 
which is the cube, which the sphere. Suppose 
then the cube and sphere placed on a table, and 
the blind man be made to see: qiuere, whether by 
his sight , before he touched them^ he could now dis- 
tinguish and tell which is the globe, which the 
cube?" To which the acute and judicious prcK 
poser answers,"Not. For, though he has obtained 
the experience of how a globe, how a cube af- 
fects his touch, yet he has not yet obtained the 
experience, that what affects his touch so or so, 
must affect his sight so or so; or that a protuber- 
ant angle in the cube, that pressed his hand un- 
equally, shall appear to his eye as it does in the 
cube." I agree with this thinking gentleman, 
whom I am proud to call my friend, in his an- 
swer to this problem; and am of opinion that the 
blind man, at first sight, would not be able with 
certainty to say which was the globe, which the 
cube, whilst he only saw them; though he could 
unerringly name them by his touch, and certainly 
distinguish them by the difference of their fig- 
ures felt This I have set down, and leave with 
my reader, as an occasion for him to consider 
how much he may be beholden to experience, 
improvement, and acquired notions, where he 
thinks he had not the least use of, or help from 
them. And the rather, because this observing 
gentleman further adds, that "having, upon the 
occasion of my book, proposed this to divers very 
ingenious men, he hardly ever met with one 
that at first gave the answer to it which he thinks 
true, till by hearing his reasons they were con- 
vinced." 

9. This judgment apt to be mistaken for direct per- 
ception. But this is not, I think, usual in any of 
our ideas, but those received by sight. Because 
sight, the most comprehensive of all our senses, 
conveying to our minds the Ideas of light and 
colours, which are peculiar only to that sense; 



140 



JOHN LOCKE 



and also the far different ideas of space, figure, 
and motion, the several varieties whereof change 
the appearances of its proper object, viz. light 
and colours; we bring ourselves by use to judge 
of the one by the other. This, in many cases by a 
settled habit, in things whereof we have fre- 
quent experience, is performed so constantly and 
so quick, that we take that for the perception of 
our sensation which is an idea formed by our 
judgment; so that one, viz. that of sensation, serves 
only to excite the other, and is scarce taken no- 
tice of itself; as a man who reads or hears with 
attention and understanding, takes little notice 
of the characters or sounds, but of the ideas that 
are excited in him by them. 

10. How, by habit, ideas of sensation are uncon- 
sciously changed into ideas of judgment. Nor need we 
wonder that this is done with so little notice, if 
we consider how quick the actions of the mind 
are performed. For, as itself is thought to take 
up no space, 1 to have no extension; so its actions 
seem to require no time, but many of them seem 
to be crowded into an instant. I speak this in 
comparison to the actions of the body. Any one 
may easily observe this in his own thoughts, who 
will take the pains to reflect on them. How, as it 
were in an instant, do our minds, with one glance, 
see all the parts of a demonstration, which may 
very well be called a long one, if we consider the 
time it will require to put it into words, and step 
by step show it another? Secondly, we shall 
not be so much surprised that this is done in us 
with so little notice, if we consider how the facil- 
ity which we get of doing things, by a custom of 
doing, makes them often pass in us without our 
notice. Habits, especially such as are begun very 
early, come at last to produce actions in us, 
which often escape our observation. How fre- 
quently do we, in a day, cover our eyes with our 
eyelids, without perceiving that we are at all in 
the dark! Men that, by custom, have got the 
use of a by-word, do almost in every sentence 
pronounce sounds which, though taken notice 
of by others, they themselves neither hear nor 
observe. And therefore it is not so strange, that 
our mind should often change the idea of its 
sensation into that of its judgment, and make 
one serve only to excite the other, without our 
taking notice of it. 

1 1. Perception puts the difference between animals 
and vegetables. This faculty of perception seems to 
me to be, that which puts the distinction be- 
twixt the animal kingdom and the inferior parts 
of nature. For, however vegetables have, many 
of them, some degrees of i&otion, and upon the 

*C ch. xxvfi, 2, cm the "place" of spirits. 



BOOK II 

different application of other bodies to them, do 
very briskly alter their figures and motions, and 
so have obtained the name of sensitive plants, 
from a motion which has some resemblance to 
that which in animals follows upon sensation: yet 
I suppose it is all bare mechanism; and no other- 
wise produced than the turning of a wild oat- 
beard, by the insinuation of the particles of mois- 
ture, or the shortening of a rope, by the affusion 
of water. All which is done without any sensa- 
tion in the subject, or the having or receiving 
any ideas. 

12. Perception in all animals. Perception, I be- 
lieve, is, in some degree, in all sorts of animals; 
though in some possibly the avenues provided 
by nature for the reception of sensations are so 
few, and the perception they are received with 
so obscure and dull, that it comes extremely 
short of the quickness and variety of sensation 
which is in other animals; but yet it is sufficient 
for, and wisely adapted to, the state and condi- 
tion of that sort of animals who are thus made. 
So that the wisdom and goodness of the Maker 
plainly appear in all the parts of this stupendous 
fabric, and all the several degrees and ranks of 
creatures in it. 

1 3. According to their condition. We may, I think, 
from the make of an oyster or cockle, reasona- 
bly conclude that it has not so many, nor so 
quick senses as a man, or several other animals; 
nor if it had, would it, in that state and inca- 
pacity of transferring itself from one place to 
another, be bettered by them. What good would 
sight and hearing do to a creature that cannot 
move itself to or from the objects wherein at a 
distance it perceives good or evil? And would 
not quickness of sensation be an inconvenience 
to an animal that must lie still where chance has 
once placed it, and there receive the afflux of 
colder or warmer, clean or foul water, as it hap- 
pens to come to it? 

14. Decay of perception in old age. But yet I can- 
not but think there is some small dull percep- 
tion, whereby they are distinguished from per- 
fect insensibility. And that this may be so, we 
have plain instances, even in mankind itself. Take 
one in whom decrepit old age has blotted out 
the memory of his past knowledge, and clearly 
wiped out the ideas his mind was formerly stored 
with, and has, by destroying his sight, hearing, 
and smell quite, and his taste to a great degree, 
stopped up almost all the passages for new ones 
to enter; or if there be some of the inlets yet half 
open, the impressions made are scarcely per- 
ceived, or not at all retained. How far such an 
one (notwithstanding all that is boasted of in- 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP. X 

nate principles) is in his knowledge and intel- 
lectual faculties above the condition of a cockle 
or an oyster, I leave to be considered. And if a 
man had passed sixty years in such a state, as it 
is possible he might, as well as three days, I won- 
der what difference there would be, in any in- 
tellectual perfections, between him and the low- 
est degree of animals. 

15. Perception the inlet of all materials oj knowl- 
edge. Perception then being the/rtf step and de- 
gree towards knowledge, and the inlet of all the 
materials of it; the fewer senses any man, as well 
as any other creature, hath; and the fewer and 
duller the impressions are that are made by them, 
and the duller the faculties are that are em- 
ployed about them, the more remote are they 
from that knowledge which is to be found in 
some men. But this being in great variety of de- 
grees (as may be perceived amongst men) can- 
not certainly be discovered in the several species 
of animals, much less in their particular individ- 
uals. It suffices me only to have remarked here, 
that perception is the first operation of all our 
intellectual faculties, and the inlet of all knowl- 
edge in our minds. And I am apt too to imagine, 
that it is perception, in the lowest degree of it, 
which puts the boundaries between animals and 
the inferior ranks of creatures. But this I men- 
tion only as my conjecture by the by; it being 
indifferent to the matter in hand which way the 
learned shall determine of it. 1 

Chap. X. Oj Retention 

1. Contemplation. The next faculty of the mind, 
whereby it makes a further progress towards 
knowledge, is that which I call retention; or the 
keeping of those simple ideas which from sensa- 
tion or reflection it hath received. This is done 
two ways. 

First, by keeping the idea which is brought in- 
to it, for some time actually in view, which is 
called contemplation. 

2. Memory. The other way of retention is, the 
power to revive again in our minds those ideas 
which, after imprinting, have disappeared, or 
have been as it were laid aside out of sight. And 
thus we do, when we conceive heat or light, yel- 
low or sweet, the object being removed. This 
is, memory, which is as it were the storehouse of 
our ideas. For, the narrow mind of man not be- 
ing capable of having many ideas under view 
and consideration at once, 2 it was necessary to 
have a repository, to lay up those ideas which, at 
another time, it might have use of. But, our ideas 

. IV.ch.ix.,xL 



141 



being nothing but actual perceptions in the mind, 
which cease to be anything when there is no per- 
ception of them; this laying up of our ideas in 
the repository of the memory signifies no more 
but this, that the mind has a power in many 
cases to revive perceptions which it has once 
had, with this additional perception annexed to 
them, that it has had them before. And in this sense 
it is that our ideas are said to be in our memo- 
ries, when indeed they are actually nowhere; 
but only there is an ability in the mind when it 
will to revive them again, and as it were paint 
them anew on itself, though some with more, 
some with less difficulty; some more lively, and 
others more obscurely. And thus it is, by the as- 
sistance of this faculty, that we are said to have all 
those ideas in our understandings which, though 
we do not actually contemplate, yet we can bring 
in sight, and make appear again, and be the ob- 
jects of our thoughts, without the help of those 
sensible qualities which first imprinted them 
there. 

3. Attention, repetition, pleasure and pain, fix ideas. 
Attention and repetition help much to the fix- 
ing any ideas in the memory. But those which 
naturally at first make the deepest and most last- 
ing impressions, are those which are accompa- 
nied with pleasure or pain. The great business of 
the senses being, to make us take notice of what 
hurts or advantages the body, it is wisely ordered 
by nature, as has been shown, that pain should 
accompany the reception of several ideas; which, 
supplying the place of consideration and rea- 
soning in children, and acting quicker than con- 
sideration in grown men, makes both the old 
and young avoid painful objects with that haste 
which is necessary for their preservation; and in 
both settles in the memory a caution for the fu- 
ture, 

4. Ideas Jade in the memory. Concerning the sev- 
eral degrees of lasting, wherewith ideas are im- 
printed on the memory, we may observe, that 
some of them have been produced in the under- 
standing by an object affecting the senses once 
only, and no more than once; others, that have 
more than once offered themselves to the senses, 
have yet been little taken notice of: the mind, 
either heedless, as in children, or otherwise em- 
ployed, as in men intent only on one thing; not 
setting the stamp deep into itself. And in some, 
where they are set on with care and repeated 
impressions, either through the temper of the 
body, or some other fault, the memory is very 
weak. In all these cases, ideas in the mind quick- 
ly fade, and often vanish quite out of the under- 
standing, leaving no more footsteps or remaining 



142 



JOHN LOCKE 



characters of themselves than shadows do flying 
over fields of corn, and the mind is as void of 
them as if they had never been there. 

5. Causes of oblivion. Thus many of those ideas 
which were produced in the minds of children, 
in the beginningof their sensation, (some of which 
perhaps, as of some pleasures and pains, were 
before they were born, and others in their in- 
fancy,) if the future course of their lives they are 
not repeated again, are quite lost, without the 
least glimpse remaining of them. This may be 
observed in those who by some mischance have 
lost their sight when they were very young; in 
whom the ideas of colours having been but slightly 
taken notice of, and ceasing to be repeated, do 
quite wear out; so that some years after, there is 
no more notion nor memory of colours left in 
their minds, than in those of people born blind. 
The memory of some men, it is true, is very te- 
nacious, even to a miracle. But yet there seems 
to be a constant decay of all our ideas, even of 
those which are struck deepest, and in minds the 
most retentive; so that if they be not sometimes 
renewed, by repeated exercise of the senses, or 
reflection on those kinds of objects which at first 
occasioned them, the print wears out, and at 
last there remains nothing to be seen. Thus the 
ideas, as well as children, of our youth, often die 
before us: and our minds represent to us those 
tombs to which we are approaching; where, 
though the brass and marble remain, yet the in- 
scriptions are effaced by time, and the imagery 
moulders away. The pictures drawn in our minds 
are laid in fading colours; and* if not sometimes 
refreshed, vanish and disappear. How much the 
constitution of our bodies and the make of our 
animal spirits are concerned in this; and whether 
the temper of 'the brain makes this difference, 
that in some it retains the characters drawn on 
it like marble, in others like freestone, and in 
others little better than sand, I shall not here 
inquire; though it may seem probable that the 
constitution of the body does sometimes influ- 
ence the memory, since we oftentimes find a dis- 
ease quite strip the mind of all its ideas, and the 
flames of a fever in a few days calcine all those 
images to dust and confusion, which seemed to 
be as lasting as if graved in marble. 

6, Constantly repeated ideas can scarce be lost. But 
concerning tie ideas themselves, it is easy to 
remark, that those that are oftenest refreshed 
(amongst which are those that are conveyed into 
the mind by more ways tihan one) by a frequent 
rettmiof theoibjeelsor acto 

ix themselves' fees! ;in the laemor^ and r^mam 
clearest ami ip&ges$ tffa^auad therefore those 



BOOK II 

which are of the original qualities of bodies, vis. 
solidity, extension, figure, motion, and rest; and 
those that almost constantly affect our bodies, 
as heat and cold; and those which are the affec- 
tions of all kinds of beings, as existence, dura- 
tion, and number, which almost every object 
that affects our senses, every thought which em- 
ploys our minds, bring along with them; these, 
I say, and the like ideas, are seldom quite lost, 
whilst the mind retains any ideas at all. 

7. In remembering, the mind is often active. In this 
secondary perception, as I may so call it, or view- 
ing again the ideas that are lodged in the mem- 
ory, the mind is oftentimes more than barely 
passive; the appearance of those dormant pic- 
tures depending sometimes on the will. The mind 
very often sets itself on work in search of some 
hidden idea, and turns as it were the eye of the 
soul upon it; though sometimes too they start up 
in our minds of their own accord, and offer 
themselves to the understanding; and very often 
are roused and tumbled out of their dark cells 
into open daylight, by turbulent and tempestu- 
ous passions; our affections bringing ideas to our 
memory, which had otherwise lain quiet and 
unregarded. This further is to be observed, con- 
cerning ideas lodged in the memory, and upon 
occasion revived by the mind, that they are not 
only (as the word revive imports) none of them 
new ones, but also that the mind takes notice of 
them as of a former impression, and renews its 
acquaintance with them, as with ideas it had 
known before. So that though ideas formerly im- 
printed are not all constantly in view, yet in re- 
membrance they are constantly known to be 
such as have been formerly imprinted; i.e. in 
view, and taken notice of before, by the under- 
standing. 

8. Two defects in the memory, oblivion and slow- 
ness. Memory, in an intellectual creature, is nec- 
essary in the next degree to perception. It is of 
so great moment, that, where it is wanting, all 
the rest of our faculties are in a great measure 
useless. And we in our thoughts, reasonings, and 
knowledge, could not proceed beyond present 
objects, were it not for the assistance of our mem- 
ories; wherein there may be two defects: 

First, That it loses the idea quite, and so far it 
produces perfect ignorance. For, since we can 
know nothing further than we have the idea of 
it, when that is gone, we are in perfect ignor- 
ance. 

Secondly, That it moves slowly, and retrieves 
not the ideas that it has, and are laid up in 
store, quick enough to wve the miad upon oc- 
casion* This, if it be to a great degree^ is s&ipid- 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP. XI 

ity ; and he who, through this default in his mem- 
ory, has not the ideas that are really preserved 
there, ready at hand when need and occasion 
calls for them, were almost as good be without 
them quite, since they serve him to little pur- 
pose. The dull man, who loses the opportunity, 
whilst he is seeking in his mind for those ideas 
that should serve his turn, is not much more hap- 
py in his knowledge than one that is perfectly 
ignorant. It is the business therefore of the mem- 
ory to furnish to the mind those dormant ideas 
which it has present occasion for; in the having 
them ready at hand on all occasions, consists 
that which we call invention, fancy, and quick- 
ness of parts. 

9. A defect which belongs to the memory of man, as 
finite. These are defects we may observe in the 
memory of one man compared with another. 
There is another defect which we may conceive 
to be in the memory of man in "general; com- 
pared with some superior created intellectual 
beings, which in this faculty may so far excel 
man, that they may have constantly in view the 
whole scene of all their former actions, wherein 
no one of the thoughts they have ever had may 
slip out of their sight. The omniscience of God, 
who knows all things, past, present, and to come, 
and to whom the thoughts of men's, hearts al- 
ways lie open, may satisfy us of the possibility of 
this. For who can doubt but God may communi- 
cate to those glorious spirits, his immediate at- 
tendants, -any of his perfections; in what propor- 
tions he pleases, as far as created finite beings 
can be capable? It is reported of that prodigy of 
parts, Monsieur Pascal, that till the decay of his 
health had impaired his memory, he forgot noth- 
ing of what he had done, read, or thought, in 
any part of his rational age. This is a privilege 
so little known to most men, that it seems almost 
incredible to those who, after the ordinary way, 
measure all others by themselves; but yet, when 
considered, may help us to enlarge our thoughts 
towards greater perfections of it, in superior ranks 
of spirits. For this of Monsieur Pascal was still 
with the narrowness that human minds are con- 
fined to here, of having great variety of ideas 
only by succession, not all at once. Whereas the 
several degrees of angels may probably have larg- 
er views; and some of them be endowed with 
capacities able to retain together, and constantly 
set before them, as in one picture, all their past 
knowledge at once. This, we may conceive, would 
be no small advantage to the knowledge of a 
thinking man, if all his past thoughts and rea- 
sonings could be always present to him. And 
therefore we may suppose it one of those ways, 



wherein the knowledge of separate spirits may 
exceedingly surpass ours. 

i o. Brutes have memory. This faculty of laying 
up and retaining the ideas that are brought into 
the mind, several other animals seem to have to 
a great degree, as well as man. For, to pass by 
other instances, birds learning of tunes, and the 
endeavours one may observe in them to hit the 
notes right, put it past doubt with me, that they 
have perception, and retain ideas in their mem- 
ories, and use them for patterns. For it seems to 
me impossible that they should endeavour to 
conform their voices to notes (as it is plain they 
do) of which they had no ideas. For, though I 
should grant sound may mechanically cause a 
certain motion of the animal spirits in the brains 
of those birds, whilst the tune is actually play- 
ing; and that motion may be continued on to 
the muscles of the wings, and so the bird me- 
chanically be driven away by certain noises, be- 
cause this may tend to the bird's preservation: 
yet that can never be supposed a reason why it 
should cause mechanically either whilst the 
tune is playing, much less after it has ceased 
such a motion of the organs in the bird's voice as 
should conform it to the notes of a foreign sound, 
which imitation can be of no use to the bird's 
preservation. But, which is more, it cannot with 
any appearance of reason be supposed (much 
less proved) that birds, without sense and mem- 
ory, can approach their notes nearer and nearer 
by degrees to a tune played yesterday; which if 
they have no idea of in their memory, is now no- 
where, nor can be a pattern for them to imitate, 
or which any repeated essays can bring them 
nearer to. Since there is no reason why the sound 
of a pipe should leave traces in their brains, 
which, not at first, but by their after-endeavours, 
should produce the like sounds; and why the 
sounds they make themselves, should not make 
traces which they should follow, as well as those 
of the pipe, is impossible to conceive. 

Chap. XI. Of Discerning, and other 
operations of the Mind 

i. No knowledge tvithout discernment. Another 
faculty we may take notice of in our minds is that 
of discerning and distinguishing between the sev- 
eral ideas it has. 1 It is not enough to have a con- 
fused perception of something in general Un- 
less the mind had a distinct perception of dif- 
ferent objects and their qualities, it would be 
capabk of very little knowledge, ttosugk the bod- 
ies that afiect us were as busy about us as tliey 
are now, and the mind were continually em- 

* Cfc W, James, Principles ef Psphdtgp, ch. XIIL 



144 

ployed in thinking. On this faculty of distin- 
guishing one thing from another depends the 
evidence and certainty of several, even very gen- 
eral, propositions, which have passed for innate 
truths; because men, overlooking the true cause 
why those propositions find universal assent s im- 
pute it wholly to native uniform impressions; 
whereas it in truth depends upon this clear dis- 
cerning faculty of the mind, whereby it perceives 
two ideas to be the same, or different But of this 
more hereafter. 

2. The difference of wit and judgment. How much 
the imperfection of accurately discriminating 
ideas one from another lies, either in the dulness 
or faults of the organs of sense; or want of acute- 
ness, exercise, or attention in the understand- 
ing; or hastiness and precipitancy, natural to 
some tempers, I will not here examine: it suf- 
fices to take notice, that this is one of the opera- 
tions that the mind may reflect on and observe 
in itself. It is of that consequence to its other 
knowledge, that so far as this faculty is in itself 
dull, or not rightly made use of, for the distin- 
guishing one thing from another, so far our no- 
tions are confused, and our reason and judg- 
ment disturbed or misled. If in having our ideas 
in the memory ready at hand consists quickness 
of parts; in this, of having them unconfused, 
and being able nicely to distinguish one thing 
from another, where there is but the least dif- 
ference, consists, in a great measure, the exact- 
ness of judgment, and clearness of reason, which 
is to be observed hi one man above another. 
And hence perhaps may be given some reason 
of that common observation, that men who 
have a great deal of wit, and prompt memories, 
have not always the clearest judgment or deep- 
est reason. For wit lying most in the assemblage 
of ideas, and putting those together with quick- 
ness and variety, wherein can be found any re- 
semblance or congruity, thereby to make up 
pleasant pictures and agreeable visions in the 
fancy-Judgment, on the contrary, lies quite on the 
other side, in separating carefully, one from an- 
other, ideas wherein can be found the least 
difference, thereby to avoid being misled by 
similitude, and by affinity to take one thing for 
another. 1 This is a way of proceeding quite con- 
trary to metaphor and allusion; wherein for 
the most part Hes that entertainment and pleas- 
antry of wit, which strikes so lively on the fancy, 
and therefore is so acceptable to all people, be- 
cause its beauty appears at first sight, and there 
is required no labor of thought to examine what 
truth or reason ttere is kx it. The mind, with- 

iQf. Bk. IV,<&& xiv, xv, xvL 



LOCKE 



BOOK II 



out looking any further, rests satisfied with the 
agreeableness of the picture and the gaiety of 
the fancy. And it is a kind of affront to go about 
to examine it, by the severe rules of truth and 
good reason; whereby it appears that it con- 
sists in something that is not perfectly conform- 
able to them. 

3. Clearness alone hinders confusion. To the well 
distinguishing our ideas, it chiefly contributes 
that they be dear and determinate. And when they 
are so, it will not breed any confusion or mistake 
about them, though the senses should (as some- 
times they do) convey them from the same ob- 
ject differently on different occasions, and so 
seem to err. For, though a man in a fever should 
from sugar have a bitter taste, which at another 
time would produce a sweet one, yet the idea of 
bitter in that man's mind would be as clear and 
distinct from the idea of sweet as if he had tasted 
only gall. Nor does it make any more confusion 
between the two ideas of sweet and bitter, that 
the same sort of body produces at one time one, 
and at another time another idea by the taste, 
than it makes a confusion in two ideas of white 
and sweet, or white and round, that the same 
piece of sugar produces them both in the mind 
at the same time. And the ideas of orange-col- 
our and azure, that are produced in the mind 
by the same parcel of the infusion of lignum ne- 
phriticum^ are no less distinct ideas than those of 
the same colours taken from two very different 
bodies. 

4. Comparing. The COMPARING them one with 
another, in respect of extent, degrees, time, place, 
or any other circumstances, is another operation 
of the mind about its ideas, and is that upon 
which depends all that large tribe of ideas com- 
prehended under relation; which, of how vast an 
extent it is, I shall have occasion to consider 
hereafter. 2 

5. Brutes compare but imperfectly. How far brutes 
partake in this faculty, is not easy to determine. 
I imagine they have it not in any great degree: 
for, though they probably have several ideas dis- 
tinct enough, yet it seems to me to be the pre- 
rogative of human understanding, when it has 
sufficiently distinguished any ideas, so as to per- 
ceive them to be perfectly different, and so con- 
sequently two, to cast about and consider in 
what circumstances they are capable to be com- 
pared. And therefore, I think, beasts compare 
not their ideas further than some sensible cir- 
cumstances annexed to the objects themselves. 
The other power of comparing, which may be 
observed in men, belonging to general ideas, 

3 See chh. xxv-xxviii. 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP. XI 

and useful only to abstract reasonings, we may 
probably conjecture beasts have not. 

6. Compounding. The next operation we may 
observe in the mind about its ideas is COMPOSI- 
TION; whereby it puts together several of those 
simple ones it has received from sensation and 
reflection, and combines them into complex ones. 
Under this of composition may be reckoned also 
that of enlarging, wherein, though the composi- 
tion does not so much appear as in more com- 
plex ones, yet it is nevertheless a putting several 
ideas together, though of the same kind. 1 Thus, 
by adding several units together, we make the 
idea of a dozen; and putting together the re- 
peated ideas of several perches, we frame that 
of a furlong. 

7. Brutes compound but little. In this also, I sup- 
pose, brutes come far short of man. For, though 
they take in, and retain together, several combi- 
nations of simple ideas, as possibly the shape, 
smell, and voice of his master make up the com- 
plex idea a dog has of him, or rather are so 
many distinct marks whereby he knows him; yet 
I do not think they do of themselves ever com- 
pound them, and make complex ideas. And per- 
haps even where we think they have complex 
ideas, it is only one simple one that directs them 
in the knowledge of several things, which possi- 
bly they distinguish less by their sight than we 
imagine. For I have been credibly informed that 
a bitch will nurse, play with, and be fond of 
young foxes, as much as, and in place of her 
puppies, if you can but get them once to suck 
her so long that her milk may go through them. 
And those animals which have a numerous brood 
of young ones at once, appear not to have any 
knowledge of their number; for though they are 
mightily concerned for any of their young that 
are taken from them whilst they are in sight or 
hearing, yet if one or two of them be stolen from 
them in their absence, or without noise, they ap- 
pear not to miss them, or to have any sense that 
their number is lessened. 

8. Naming. When children have, by repeated 
sensations, got ideas fixed in their memories, 
they begin by degrees to learn the use of signs. 
And when they have got the skill to apply the 
organs of speech to the framing of articulate 
sounds, they begin to make use of words, to sig- 
nify their ideas to others. These verbal signs they 
sometimes borrow from others, and sometimes 
make themselves, as one may observe among the 
new and unusual names children often give to 
things in the first use of language. 

9. Abstraction. The use of words then being to 
1 See chh. xiii-xxi. 



145 



stand as outward marks of our internal ideas, and 
those ideas being taken from particular things, 
if every particular idea that we take in should 
have a distinct name, names must be endless. 
To prevent this, the mind makes the particular 
ideas received from particular objects to become 
general; which is done by considering them as 
they are in the mind such appearances, sepa- 
rate from all other existences, and the circum- 
stances of real existence, as time, place, or any 
other concomitant ideas. 2 This is called ABSTRAC- 
TION, 3 whereby ideas taken from particular be- 
ings become general representatives of all of the 
same kind; and their names general names, ap- 
plicable to whatever exists conformable to such 
abstract ideas. Such precise, naked appearances 
in. the mind, without considering how, whence, 
or with what others they came there, the under- 
standing lays up (with names commonly annexed 
to them) as the standards to rank real existences 
into sorts, as they agree with these patterns, and 
to denominate them accordingly. Thus the same 
colour being observed to-day in chalk or snow, 
which the mind yesterday received from milk, 
it considers that appearance alone, makes it a 
representative of all of that kind; and having 
given it the name whiteness, it by that sound sig- 
nifies the same quality wheresoever to be imag- 
ined or met with; and thus universals, whether 
ideas or terms, are made. 

10. Brutes abstract not. If it may be doubted 
whether beasts compound and enlarge their ideas 
that way to any degree; this, I think, I may be 
positive in, that the power of abstracting is not 
at all in them; and that the having of general 
ideas is that which puts a perfect distinction be- 
twixt man and brutes, and is an excellency which 
the faculties of brutes do by no means attain *o. 
For it is evident we observe no footsteps in them 
of making use of general signs for universal ideas; 
from which we have reason to imagine thai they 
have not the faculty of abstracting, or making 
general ideas, since they have no use of words, 
or any other general signs. 

1 1. Brutes abstract not, yet are not bare machines. 
Nor can it be imputed to their want of fit organs 
to frame articulate sounds, that they have no 
use or knowledge of general words; since many 
of them, we find, can fashion such sounds, and 
pronounce words distinctly enough, but never 
with any such application. And, on the other 
side, men who, through some defect in the or- 
gans, want words, yet fail not to express their 
universal ideas by signs, which serve them in- 

*Cf. Bk. IV.ch. xvii. 8. 

Gf. Bk. III. ch. iii. 6; Bk. IV. ch. vii. 9. 



146 



JOHN LOCKE 



stead of general words, a faculty which we see 
beasts come short in. And, therefore, I think, we 
may suppose, that it is in this that the species of 
brutes are discriminated from man: and it is 
that proper difference wherein they are wholly 
separated, and which at last widens to so vast a 
distance. For if they have any ideas at all, and 
are not bare machines, (as some would have 
them,) we cannot deny them to have some rea- 
son. It seems as evident to me, that they do some 
of them in certain instances reason, as that they 
have sense; but it is only in particular ideas, just 
as they received them from their senses. They 
are the best of them tied up within those narrow 
bounds, and have not (as I think) the faculty to 
enlarge them by any kind of abstraction. 

12. Idiots and madmen. How far idiots are con- 
cerned in the want or weakness of any, or all of 
the foregoing faculties, an exact observation of 
their several ways of faultering would no doubt 
discover. For those who either perceive but dul- 
ly, or retain the ideas that come into their minds 
but ill, who cannot readily excite or compound 
them, will have little matter to think on. Those 
who cannot distinguish, compare, and abstract, 
would hardly be able to understand and make 
use of language, or judge or reason to any tolera- 
ble degree ; but only a little and imperfectly about 
things present, and very familiar to their senses. 
And indeed any of the forementioned faculties, 
if wanting, or out of order, produce suitable de- 
fects in men's understandings and knowledge. 

13. Difference between idiots and madmen. In fine, 
the defect in naturals seems to proceed from 
want of quickness, activity, and motion in the 
intellectual faculties, whereby they are deprived 
of reason; whereas madmen, on the other side, 
seem to suffer by the other extreme. For they do 
not appear to me to have lost the faculty of rea- 
soning, but having joined together some ideas 
very wrongly, they mistake them for truths; and 
they err as men do that argue right from wrong 
principles. For, by the violence of their imagina- 
tions, having taken their fancies for realities, they 
make right deductions from them. Thus you shall 
find a distracted man fancying himself a king, 
with a right inference require suitable attend- 
ance, respect, and obedience: others who have 
thought themselves made of glass, have used the 
camtkni necessary to preserve such brittle bod- 
ies, Hence it comes to pass that a man who is 
very sober, and of a right understanding in all 
other tfefegs, <may ip on particular be as frantic 
as ssxfm Bedlam; if either by any! sodden very 
strong impression, or k>ng fixtog has fancy upon 
one sort of thoughts, iBOo^ent ideas have been 



BOOK II 

cemented together so powerfully, as to remain 
united. But there are degrees of madness, as of 
folly; the disorderly jumbling ideas together is 
in some more, and some less. In short, herein 
seems to lie the difference between idiots and 
madmen: that madmen put wrong ideas togeth- 
er, and so make wrong propositions, but argue 
and reason right from them ; but idiots make very 
few or no propositions, and reason scarce at all. 

14. Method followed in this explication of faculties. 
These, I think, are the first faculties and opera- 
tions of the mind, which it makes use of in un- 
derstanding; and though they are exercised about 
all its ideas in general, yet the instances I have 
hitherto given have been chiefly in simple ideas. 
And I have subjoined the explication of these 
faculties of the mind to that of simple ideas, 1 be- 
fore I come to what I have to say concerning 
complex ones, for these following reasons: 

First, Because several of these faculties being 
exercised at first principally about simple ideas, 2 
we might, by following nature in its ordinary 
method, trace and discover them, in their rise, 
progress, and gradual improvements. 

Secondly, Because observing the faculties of 
the mind, how they operate about simple ideas, 
which are usually, in most men's minds, much 
more clear, precise, and distinct than complex 
ones, we may the better examine and learn 
how the mind extracts, denominates, compares, 
and exercises, in its other operations about those 
which are complex, wherein we are much more 
liable to mistake. 

Thirdly, Because these very operations of the 
mind about ideas received from sensations, are 
themselves, when reflected on, another set of 
ideas, derivedfronithat other source of our knowl- 
edge, which I call reflection; and therefore fit to 
be considered in this place after the simple ideas 
of sensation. Of compounding, comparing, ab- 
stracting, &c., I have but just spoken, having 
occasion to treat of them more at large in other 
places. 3 

15. The true beginning of human knowledge. And 
thus I have given a short, and, I think, true his- 
tory* of the first beginnings of human knowledge; 
whence the mind has its first objects; and by 
what steps it makes its progress to the laying hi 
and storing up those ideas, out of which is to be 
framed all the knowledge it is capable of: where- 

1<e simpte ideas,"--especially of "sensation," 
treated of in ch. ii-viii. 

*C Bk. IV. ch. i. 2. 

*Ghh. xiii-xxviii, xxxiL 6-8; Bk. III. ch. ill, 
&c. 

<The ^historical" plain matter effect method. 
(Introd, | 2,) 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP. XII 

in I must appeal to experience and observation 
whether I am in the right: the best way to come 
to truth being to examine things as really they 
are, and not to conclude they are, as we fancy 
of ourselves, or have been taught by others to 
imagine. 

1 6. Appeal to experience. To deal truly, this is the 
only way that I can discover, whereby the ideas 
of things are brought into the understanding. If 
other men have either innate ideas or infused 
principles, they have reason to enjoy them; and 
if they are sure of it, it is impossible for others to 
deny them the privilege that they have above 
their neighbours. I can speak but of what I find 
in myself, and is agreeable to those notions, 
which, if we will examine the whole course of 
men in their several ages, countries, and educa- 
tions, seem to depend on those foundations which 
I have laid, and to correspond with this method 
in all the parts and degrees thereof. 

1 7. Dark room. I pretend not to teach, but to 
inquire; and therefore cannot but confess here 
again, that external and internal sensation are 
the only passages I can find of knowledge to the 
understanding. These alone, as far as I can dis- 
cover, are the windows by which light is let into 
this dark room. For, methinks, the understanding 
is not much unlike a closet wholly shut from 
light, with only some little openings left, to let in 
external visible resemblances, or ideas of things 
without: would the pictures coming into such a 
dark room but stay there, and lie so orderly as 
to be found upon occasion, it would very much 
resemble the understanding of a man, in refer- 
ence to all objects of sight, and the ideas of them. 

These are my guesses concerning the means 
whereby the understanding comes to have and 
retain simple ideas, and the modes of them, with 
some other operations about them, 

I proceed now to examine some of these sim- 
ple ideas and their modes a little more particu- 
larly. 

Chap. XII. Of Complex Ideas 

i. Made by the mind out of simple ones. We have 
hitherto considered those ideas, in the reception 
whereof the mind is only passive, which are those 
simple ones received from sensation and reflec- 
tion before mentioned, whereof the mind cannot 
make one to itself, nor have any idea which does 
not wholly consist of them. But as the mind is 
wholly passive in the reception of all its simple 
Ideas, so it exerts several acts of its own, where- 
by out of its simple ideas, as the materials and 
foundations of the rest, the others are framed. 
Tbe ads of the mind, wherein it exerts its power 



over its simple ideas, are chiefly these three: (i) 
Combining several simple ideas into one com- 
pound one; and thus all complex ideas are made. 
(2) The second is bringing two ideas, whether 
simple or complex, together, and setting them by 
one another, so as to take a view of them at 
once, without uniting them into one; by which 
way it gets all its ideas of relations. (3) The third is 
separating them from all other ideas that ac- 
company them in their real existence: this is 
called abstraction: and thus all its general ideas 
are made. This shows man's power, and its ways 
of operation, to be much the same in the ma- 
terial and intellectual world. For the materials 
in both being such as he has no power over, ei- 
ther to make or destroy, all that man can do is 
either to unite them together, or to set them by 
one another, or wholly separate them. I shall 
here begin with the first of these in the considera- 
tion of complex ideas, and come to the other 
two in their due places. As simple ideas are ob- 
served to exist in several combinations united to- 
gether, so the mind has a power to consider sev- 
eral of them united together as one idea; and 
that not only as they are united in external ob- 
jects, but as itself has joined them together. Ideas 
thus made up of several simple ones put together, 
I call complex; such as are beauty, gratitude, a 
ipartj an army, the universe; which, though com- 
plicated of various simple ideas, or complex ideas 
made up of simple ones, yet are, when the mind 
pleases, considered each by itself, as one entire 
thing, and signified by one name. 

2. Made voluntarily. In this faculty of repeating 
and joining together its ideas, the mind has great 
power in varying and multiplying the objects of 
its thoughts, infinitely beyond what sensation or 
reflection furnished it with: but all this still con- 
fined to those simple ideas which it received from 
those two sources, and which are the ultimate 
materials of all its compositions. For simple ideas 
are all from things themselves, and of these the 
mind can have no more, nor other than what are 
suggested to it. It can have no other ideas of sen- 
sible qualities than what come from without by 
the senses; nor any ideas of other kind of opera- 
tions of a thinking substance, 1 than what it finds 
in itself. But when it has once got these simple 
ideas, it is not confined barely to observation, 
and what offers itself from without; it can, by its 
own power, put together those ideas it has, and 
make new complex ones, which it never received 
so united. 

3. Complex ideas are either of modes, substances, &r 
relations. COMPLEX IDEAS, however compounded 

^ Including God. Cf. Bk. II. ch. xxiil | 33. 



148 



JOHN LOCKE 



and decompounded, though their number be in- 
finite, and the variety endless, wherewith they 
fill and entertain the thoughts of men; yet I 
think they may be all reduced under these three 
heads: 

1. MODES. 

2. SUBSTANCES. 

3. RELATIONS 

4. Ideas of modes. First, Modes I call such com- 
plex ideas which, however compounded, con- 
tain not in them the supposition of subsisting by 
themselves, but are considered as dependences 
on, or affections of substances; such as are the 
ideas signified by the words triangle, gratitude, 
murder, &c. And if in this I use the word mode 
in somewhat a different sense from its ordinary 
signification, I beg pardon; it being unavoida- 
ble in discourses, differing from the ordinary re- 
ceived notions, either to make new words, or to 
use old words in somewhat a new signification; 
the later whereof, in our present case, is perhaps 
the more tolerable of the two. 

5. Simple and mixed modes of simple ideas. Of 
these modes, there are two sorts which deserve 
distinct consideration: 

First, there are some which are only varia- 
tions, or different combinations of the same sim- 
ple idea, without the mixture of any other; as 
a dozen, or score; which are nothing but the 
ideas of so many distinct units added together, 
and these I call simple modes 1 as being contained 
within the bounds of one simple idea. 1 

Secondly, there are others compounded of sim- 
ple ideas of several kinds, put together to make 
one complex one; v.g. beauty, consisting of a 
certain composition of colour and figure, caus- 
ing delight to the beholder; theft, which being 
the concealed change of the possession of any- 
thing, without the consent of the proprietor, con- 
tains, as is visible, a combination of several ideas 
of several kinds: and these I call mixed modes. 2 

6. Ideas of substances, single or collective. Second- 
ly, the ideas of Substances are such combinations 
of simple ideas as are taken to represent distinct 
particular thingssubsisting by themselves ; in which 
the supposed or confused idea of substance, such 
as it is, is always the first and chief. Thus if to 
substance be joined the simple idea of a certain 
duilwhitish colour, with certain degrees of weight, 
hardness, ductility, and fusibility, we have the 
idea of lead; and a combination of the ideas of a 
certain sort of figure, with the powers of motion, 
thought and reasoning, joined to substance, make 
the ordinary idea of a man. Now of substances 

1 Treated in chapters xiS-xxL 
* Seech, xxii 



BOOK II 

also, there are two sorts of ideas: one of single 
substances, as they exist separately, as of a man 
or a sheep; the other of several of those put to- 
gether, as an army of men, or flock of sheep 
which collective ideas of several substances thus 
put together are as much each of them one single 
idea as that of a man or an unit. 

7. Ideas of relation. Thirdly, the last sort of com- 
plex ideas is that we call Relation, which consists 
in the consideration and comparing one idea 
with another. 

Of these several kinds we shall treat in their 
order. 

8. The abstrusest ideas we can have are all from two 
sources. If we trace the progress of our minds, and 
with attention observe how it repeats, adds to- 
gether, and unites its simple ideas received from 
sensation or reflection, it will lead us further than 
at first perhaps we should have imagined. And, 
I believe, we shall find, if we warily observe the 
originals of our notions, that even the most ab- 
struse ideas, how remote soever they may seem 
from sense, or from any operations of our own 
minds, are yet only such as the understanding 
frames to itself, by repeating and joining to- 
gether ideas that it had either from objects of 
sense, or from its own operations about them: so 
that those even large and abstract ideas are de- 
rived from sensation or reflection, being no other 
than what the mind, by the ordinary use of its 
own faculties, employed about ideas received 
from objects of sense, or from the operations it 
observes in itself about them, may, and does, at- 
tain unto. 

This I shall endeavour to show in the ideas we 
have of space, time, and infinity, and some few 
others that seem the most remote, from those 
originals. 

Chap. XI I L Complex Ideas of Simple Modes: 

and First, of the Simple Modes 

of the Idea of Space 

i . Simple modes of simple ideas. Though in the 
foregoing part I have often mentioned simple 
ideas, which are truly the materials of all our 
knowledge; yet having treated of them there, 
rather in the way that they come into the mind, 
than as distinguished from others more com- 
pounded, it will not be perhaps amiss to take a 
view of some of them again under this considera- 
tion, and examine those different modifications 
of the same idea; which the mind either finds in 
things existing, or is able to make within itself 
without the help of any extrinsical object, or any 
foreign suggestion. 

Those modifications of any one simple idea 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP, xm 

(which, as has been said, I call simple modes) are 
as perfectly different and distinct ideas in the 
mind as those of the greatest distance or con- 
trariety. For the idea of two is as distinct from 
that of one, as blueness from heat, or either of 
them from any number: and yet it is made up 
only of that simple idea of an unit repeated; and 
repetitions of this kind joined together make 
those distinct simple modes, of a dozen, a gross, 
a million. 

2. Idea of Space. I shall begin with the simple 
idea of space. I have showed above, chap. V, that 
we get the idea of space, both by our sight and 
touch; which, I think, is so evident, that it would 
be as needless to go to prove that men perceive, 
by their sight, a distance between bodies of dif- 
ferent colours, or between the parts of the same 
body, as that they see colours themselves: nor is 
it less obvious, that they can do so in the dark 
by feeling and touch. 

3. Space and extension. This space, considered 
barely in length between any two beings, with- 
out considering anything else between them, is 
called distance: if considered in length, breadth, 
and thickness, I think it may be called capacity. 
(The term extension is usually applied to it in 
what manner soever considered.) 

4. Immensity. Each different distance is a dif- 
ferent modification of space; and each idea of 
any different distance, or space, is a simple mode 
of this idea. Men, for the use and by the custom 
of measuring, settle in their minds the ideas of 
certain stated lengths, such as are an inch, 
foot, yard, fathom, mile, diameter of the earth, 
&c., which are so many distinct ideas made up 
only of space. When any such stated lengths or 
measures of space are made familiar to men's 
thoughts, they can, in their minds, repeat them 
as often as they will, without mixing or joining 
to them the idea of body, or anything else; and 
frame to themselves the ideas of long, square, or 
cubic feet, yards or fathoms, here amongst the 
bodies of the universe, or else beyond the utmost 
bounds of all bodies; and, by adding these still 
one to another, enlarge their ideas of space as 
much as they please. The power of repeating or 
doubling any idea we have of any distance and 
adding it to the former as often as we will, with- 
out being ever able to come to any stop or stint, 
let us enlarge it as much as we will, is that which 
gives us the idea of immensity. < 

5. Figure. There is another modification of 
tim idea, which is nothing but the relation which 
the parts of the termination of extension, or cir- 
cumscribed space, have amongst themselves. 
This the touch discovers in sensible bodies, whose 



149 



extremities come within our reach; and the eye 
takes both from bodies and colours, whose bound- 
aries are wihin its view: where, observing how 
the extremities terminate, either in straight 
lines which meet at discernible angles, or in 
crooked lines wherein no angles can be per- 
ceived; by considering these as they relate to 
one another, in all parts of the extremities of 
any body or space, it has that idea we call figure, 
which affords to the mind infinite variety. For, 
besides the vast number of different figures that 
do really exist, in the coherent masses of matter, 
the stock that the mind has in its power, by 
varying the idea of space, and thereby making 
still new compositions, by repeating its own 
ideas, and joining them as it pleases, is perfectly 
inexhaustible. And so it can multiply figures in 
infinitwn. 

6. Endless variety of figures. For the mind having 
a power to repeat the idea of any length directly ' 
stretched out, and join it to another in the same 
direction, which is to double the length of that 
straight line; or else join another with what in- 
clination it thinks fit, and so make what sort of 
angle it pleases: and being able also to shorten 
any line it imagines, by taking from it one half, 
one fourth, or what part it pleases, without be- 
ing able to come to an end of any such divisions, 
it can make an angle of any bigness. So also the 
lines that are its sides, of what length it pleases, 
which joining again to other lines, of different 
lengths, and at different angles, till it has wholly 
enclosed any space, it is evident that it can mul- 
tiply figures, both in their shape and capacity, 
in infinitum; all which are but so many different 
simple modes of space. 

The same that it can do with straight lines, it 
can also do with crooked, or crooked and straight 
together; and the same it can do in lines, it can 
also in superficies; by which we may be led into 
farther thoughts of the endless variety of figures 
that the mind has a power to make, and thereby 
to multiply the simple modes of space. 

7. Place. Another idea coining under this head, , 
and belonging to this tribe, is that we call place. 
As in simple space, we consider the relation of 
distance between any two bodies or points; so 
in our idea of place, we consider the relation of 
distance betwixt anything, and any two or more 
points, which are considered as keeping the same 
distance one with another, and so considered as 
at rest. For when we find anything at the same 
distance now which it was yesterday, from any 
two or more points, which have not since changed 
their distance one with another, and with which 
we then compared it, we say it hath kept the 



I 5 o JOHN 

same place: but if it hath sensibly altered its dis- 
tance with either of those points, we say it hath 
changed its place: though, vulgarly speaking, in 
the common notion of place, we do not always 
exactly observe the distance from these precise 
points, but from larger portions of sensible ob- 
jects, to which we consider the thing placed to 
bear relation, and its distance from which we 
have some reason to observe. 1 

8. Place relative to particular bodies. Thus, a com- 
pany of chess-men, standing on the same squares 
of the chess-board where we left them, we say 
they are all in the same place, or unmoved, 
though perhaps the chess-board hath been in 
the mean time carried out of one room into an- 
other; because we compared them only to the 
parts of the chess-board, which keep the same 
distance one with another. The chess-board, we 
also say, is in the same place it was, if it remain 
in the same part of the cabin, though perhaps 
the ship which it is in sails all the while. And the 
ship is said to be in the same place, supposing it 
kept the same distance with the parts of the- 
neighbouring land; though perhaps the earth 
hath turned round, and so both chess-men, and 
board, and ship, have every one changed place, 
in respect of remoter bodies, which have kept 
the same distance one with another. But yet the 
distance from certain parts of the board being 
that which determines the place of the chess- 
men; and the distance from the fixed parts of 
the cabin (with which we made the comparison) 
being that which determined the place of the 
chess-board; and the fixed parts of the earth 
that by which we determined the place of the 
ship, these things may be said to be in the 
same place in those respects: though their dis- 
tance from some other things, which in this mat- 
ter we did not consider, being varied, they have 
undoubtedly changed place in that respect; and 
we ourselves shall think so, when we have occa- 
sion to compare them with those other. 

9. Place relative to a present purpose. But this mod- 
ification of distance we call place, being made by 
men for their common use, that by it they might 
be able to design the particular position of things, 
where they had occasion for such designation; 
men consider and determine of this place by ref- 
erence to those adjacent things which best served 
to their present purpose, without considering 
other things which , to another purpose, would 
better determine the place of the same thing. 
Thus in the chess-board, the use of the designa- 
tion of the place of each chess-man being deter- 
mined only within that chequered piece of wood, 

1 C W. Janaes, Psychology, p* 552. 



LOCKE 



BOOK II 



it would cross that purpose to measure it by any- 
thing else; but when these very chess-men are 
put up in a bag, if any one should ask where the 
black king is, it would be proper to determine 
the place by the part of the room it was in, and 
not by the chess-board; there being another use 
of designing the place it is now in, than when in 
play it was on the chess-board, and so must be 
determined by other bodies. So if any one should 
ask, in what place are the verses which report 
the story of Nisus and Euryalus, it would be 
very improper to determine this place, by say- 
ing, they were in such a part of the earth, or in 
Bodley's library: but the right designation of the 
place would be by the parts of Virgil's works; 
and the proper answer would be, that these 
verses were about the middle of the ninth book 
of his ^Eneids, 2 and that they have been always 
constantly in the same place ever since Virgil 
was printed: which is true, though the book it- 
self hath moved a thousand times, the use of the 
idea of place here being, to know hi what part 
of the book that story is, that so, upon occasion, 
we may know where to find it, and have re- 
course to it for use. 

10. Place of the universe. That our idea of place 
is nothing else but such a relative position of 
anything as I have before mentioned, I think is 
plain, and will be easily admitted, when we con- 
sider that we can have no idea of the place of 
the universe, though we can of all the parts of 
it; because beyond that we have not the idea of 
any fixed, distinct, particular beings, in refer- 
ence to which we can imagine it to have any 
relation of distance; but all beyond it is one uni- 
form space or expansion, wherein the mind finds 
no variety, no marks. For to say that the world 
is somewhere, means no more than that it does 
exist; this, though a phrase borrowed from place, 
signifying only its existence, not location: and 
when one can find out, and frame in his mind, 
clearly and distinctly, the place of the universe, 
he will be able to tell us whether it moves or 
stands still in the undistinguishable inane of in- 
finite space: though it be true that the word place 
has sometimes a more confused sense, and stands 
for that space which anybody takes up; and so 
the universe is in a place. 

The idea, therefore, of place we have by the 
same means that we get the idea of space, (where- 
of this is but a} particular limited consideration,) 
viz, by our sight and touch; by either of which 
we receive into our minds the ideas of extension 
or distance. 

1 1. Extension and body not the same. There are 
*Bk. IX, lines 176-502, 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP. XIII 

some that would persuade us, that body and 
extension are the same thing, who either change 
the signification of words, which I would not 
suspect them of, they having so severely con- 
demned the philosophy of others, because it hath 
been too much placed in the uncertain meaning, 
or deceitful obscurity of doubtful or insignifi- 
cant terms. If, therefore, they mean by body 
and extension the same that other people do, 
viz. by body something that is solid and extended, 
whose parts are separable and movable differ- 
ent ways; and by extension, only the space that 
lies between the extremities of those solid coher- 
ent parts, and which is possessed by them, 
they confound very different ideas one with an- 
other; for I appeal to every man's own thoughts 
whether the idea of space be not as distinct from 
that of solidity, as it is from the idea of scarlet 
colour? It is true, solidity cannot exist without 
extension, neither can scarlet colour exist with- 
out extension, but this hinders not, but that they 
are distinct ideas. Many ideas require others, as 
necessary to their existence or conception, which 
yet are very distinct ideas. Motion can neither 
be, nor be conceived, without space; and yet 
motion is not space, nor space motion; space 
can exist without it, and they are very distinct 
ideas; and so, I think, are those of space and 
solidity. Solidity 1 is so inseparable an idea from 
body, that upon that depends its filling of space, 
its contact, impulse, and communication of mo- 
tion upon impulse. And if it be a reason to prove 
that spirit is different from body, because think- 
ing includes not the idea of extension in it; the 
same reason will be as valid, I suppose, to prove 
that space is not body, because it includes not 
the idea of solidity hi it; space and solidity being 
as distinct ideas as thinking and extension, and as 
wholly separable in the mind one from another. 
Body then and extension, it is evident, are two 
distinct ideas. For, 

12. Extension not solidity. First, Extension in- 
cludes no solidity, nor resistance to the motion 
of body, as body does. 

13. The farts of space inseparable, both really and 
mentally. Secondly, The parts of pure space are 
inseparable one from the other; so that the con- 
tinuity cannot be separated, neither really nor 
mentally. For I demand of any one to remove 
any part of it from another, with which it is con- 
tinued, even so much as in thought To divide 
and separate actually is, as I think, by removing 
the parts one from another, to make two super- 
ficies, where before there was a continuity: and 
to divide mentally is, to make in the mind two 

*Gf.Bfc. XI. ch.fr. 



superficies, where before there was a continuity, 
and consider them as removed one from the 
other; which can only be done in things consid- 
ered by the mind as capable of being separated; 
and by separation, of acquiring new distinct su- 
perficies, which they then have not, but are ca- 
pable of. But neither of these ways of separation, 
whether real or mental, is, as I think, compati- 
ble to pure space. 2 

It is true, a man may consider so much of 
such a space as is answerable or commensurate 
to a foot, without considering the rest, which is, 
indeed, a partial consideration, but not so much 
as mental separation or division; since a man 
can no more mentally divide, without consider- 
ing two superficies separate one from the other, 
than he can actually divide, without making 
two superficies disjoined one from the other: but 
a partial consideration is not separating. A man 
may consider light in the sun without its heat, 
or mobility in body without its extension, with- 
out thinking of their separation. One is only a 
partial consideration s terminating in one alone; 
and the other is a consideration of both, as exist- 
ing separately. 

14. The parts of space immovable. Thirdly, The 
parts of pure space are immovable, which fol- 
lows from their inseparability; motion being 
nothing but change of distance between any 
two things; but this cannot be between parts 
that are inseparable, which, therefore, must 
needs be at perpetual rest one amongst another. 

Thus the determined idea of simple space dis- 
tinguishes it plainly and sufficiently from body; 
since its parts are inseparable, immovable, and 
without resistance to the motion of body. 

15. The definition of extension explains it not. If 
any one ask me what this space I speak of z>, I 
will tell him when he tells me what his extension 
is. For to say, as is usually done, that extension 
is to have partes extra paries, is to say only, that 
extension is extension. For what am I the better 
informed in the nature of extension, when I am 
told that extension is to have parts that are ex- 
tended, exterior to parts that are extended, i.e. 
extension consists of extended parts? As if one, 
asking what a fibre was, I should answer Mm, 
that it was a thing made up of several fibres. 
Would he thereby be enabled to understand 
what a fibre was better than he did before? Or 
rather, would he not have reason to think that 
my design was to make sport with him, rather 
than seriously to instruct him? 

16. Division of beings into bodits and spkUs proves 
not space and body the same. Tbose wfeo contend 

2 Gf. Spinoza, Ethics, Part L Prop, xv, Schoi 



1 52 

that space and body are the same, bring this 
dilemma: either this space is something or 
nothing; if nothing be between two bodies, they 
must necessarily touch; if it be allowed to be 
something, they ask, Whether it be body or spir- 
it? To which I answer by another question, Who 
told them that there was, or could be, nothing 
but solid beings^ which could not think, and thinking 
beings that were not extended? which is all they 
mean by the terms body and spirit. 

1 7. Substance which we know not, no proof against 
space without body. If it be demanded (as usually 
it is) whether this space, void of body, be sub- 
stance or accident, I shall readily answer I know 
not; nor shall be ashamed to own my ignorance, 
till they that ask show me a clear distinct idea of 
substance. 

1 8. Different meanings of substance. I endeavour 
as much as I can to deliver myself from those 
fallacies which we are apt to put upon ourselves, 
by taking words for things. It helps not our ig- 
norance to feign a knowledge where we have 
none, by making a noise with sounds, without 
clear and distinct significations. Names made at 
pleasure, neither alter the nature of things, nor 
make us understand them, but as they are signs 
of and stand for determined ideas. And I desire 
those who lay so much stress on the sound of 
these two syllables, substance, to consider whether 
applying it, as they do, to the infinite, incom- 
prehensible God, to finite spirits, and to body, 
it be in the same sense; and whether it stands 
for the same idea, when each of those three so 
different beings are called substances. If so, 
whether it will thence follow that God, spirits, 
and body, agreeing in the same common nature 
of substance, differ not any otherwise than in a 
bare different modification of that substance; as a 
tree and a pebble, being in the same sense body, 
and agreeing in the common nature of body, 
differ only in a bare modification of that com- 
mon matter, which will be a very harsh doc- 
trine. 1 If they say, that they apply it to God, 
finite spirit, and matter, in three different signi- 
fications and that it stands for one idea when 
God is said to be a substance; for another when 
the soul is called substance; and for a third when 
body is called so; if the name substance stands 
for three several distinct ideas, they would do 
well to make known those distinct ideas, or at 
least to give three distinct names to them, to 
prevent in so important a notion the confusion 
and errors that will naturally follow from the 
promiscuous use of so doubtful a term; which. 
is so far from being suspected to have three dis- 

l Cf. Spinoza, Ethics* Part I. Prop. xiv. 



JOHN LOCKE 



BOOK II 

tinct, that in ordinary use it has scarce one clear 
distinct signification. And if they can thus make 
three distinct ideas of substance, what hinders 
why another may not make a fourth? 

19. Substance and accidents of little use in philoso- 
phy. They who first ran into the notion of acci- 
dents, as a sort of real beings that needed some- 
thing to inhere in, were forced to find out the 
word substance to support them. Had the poor 
Indian philosopher (who imagined that the 
earth also wanted something to bear it up) but 
thought of this word substance, he needed not 
to have been at the trouble to find an elephant 
to support it, and a tortoise to support his ele- 
phant: the word substance would have done it 
effectually. And he that inquired might have 
taken it for as good an answer from an Indian 
philosopher, that substance, without knowing 
what it is, is that which supports the earth, as 
we take it for a sufficient answer and good doc- 
trine from our European philosophers, that 
substance, without knowing what it is, is that 
which supports accidents. So that of substance, 
we have no idea of what it is, but only a con- 
fused, obscure one of what it does. 

20. Sticking on and under-propping. Whatever a 
learned man may do here, an intelligent Amer- 
ican, who inquired into the nature of things, 
would scarce take it for a satisfactory account, 
if, desiring to learn our architecture, he should 
be told that a pillar is a thing supported by a 
basis, and a basis something that supported a 
pillar. Would he not think himself mocked, in- 
stead of taught, with such an account as this? 
And a stranger to them would be very liberally 
instructed in the nature of books, and the things 
they contained, if he should be told that all 
learned books consisted of paper and letters, 
and that letters were things inhering in paper, 
and paper a thing that held forth letters: a nota- 
ble way of having clear ideas of letters and paper. 
But were the Latin words, inhaerentia and sub- 
stantio, put into the plain English ones that an- 
swer them, and were called sticking on and mdef^ 
propping, they would better discover to us tfee 
very great clearness there is in the doctrine, of 
substance and accidents, and show of what u^' 
they are in deciding of questions in philosophy. 

21. A vacuum beyond the utmost bounds of body+ 
But to return to our idea of space. If body be 
not supposed infinite, (which I think no one will 
affirm), I would ask, whether, if God placed a 
man at the extremity of corporeal beings, he 
could not stretch his hand beyond his body? If 
he could, then he would put his arm where there 
was before space without body; and if there he 



CHAP. XIII 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



153 



spread his fingers, there would still be space be- 
tween them without body. If he could not stretch 
out his hand, it must be because of some exter- 
nal hindrance; (for we suppose him alive, with 
such a power of moving the parts of his body 
that he hath now, which is not in itself impos- 
sible, if God so pleased to have it; or at least it is 
not impossible for God so to move him): and 
then I ask, whether that which hinders his 
hand from moving outwards be substance or 
accident, something or nothing? And when they 
have resolved that, they will be able to resolve 
themselves, what that is, which is or may be 
between two bodies at a distance, that is not 
body, and has no solidity. In the mean time, 
the argument is at least as good, that, where 
nothing hinders, (as beyond the utmost bounds 
of all bodies), a body put in motion may move 
on, as where there is nothing between, there 
two bodies must necessarily touch. For pure 
space between is sufficient to take away the ne- 
cessity of mutual contact; but bare space in the 
way is not sufficient to stop motion. The truth 
is, these men must either own that they think 
body infinite, though they are loth to speak it 
out, or else affirm that space is not body. For I 
would fain meet with that thinking man that 
can in his thoughts set any bounds to space, 
more than he can to duration; or by thinking 
hope to arrive at the end of either. And there- 
fore, if his idea of eternity be infinite, so is his 
idea of immensity; they are both finite or infi- 
nite alike. 

22. The power of 'annihilation proves a vacuum. Far- 
ther, those who assert the impossibility of space 
existing without matter, must not only make 
body infinite, but must also deny a power in 
God to annihilate any part of matter. No one, I 
suppose, will deny that God can put an end to 
all motion that is in matter, and fix all the bod- 
ies of the universe in a perfect quiet and rest, 
and continue them so long as he pleases. Who- 
ever then will allow that God can, during such 
a general rest, annihilate either this book or the 
body of him that reads it, must necessarily ad- 
mit the possibility of a vacuum. For, it is evident 
that the space that was filled by the parts of the 
annihilated body will still remain, and be a space 
without body. For the circumambient bodies be- 
ing in perfect rest, are a wall of adamant, and in 
that state make it a perfect impossibility for any 
other body to get into that space. And indeed 
the necessary motion of one particle of matter 
into the place from whence another particle of 
matter is removed, is but a consequence from 
the supposition of plenitude; which will there- 



fore need some better proof than a supposed mat- 
ter of fact, which experiment can never make 
out; our own clear and distinct ideas plainly 
satisfying us, that there is no necessary connex- 
ion between space and solidity, since we can 
conceive the one without the other. And those 
who dispute for or against a vacuum, do there- 
by confess they have distinct ideas of vacuum 
and plenum, i.e. thai they have an idea of ex- 
tension void of solidity, though they deny its ex- 
istence; or else they dispute about nothing at all. 
For they who so much alter the signification of 
words, as to call extension body, and consequently 
make the whole essence of body to be nothing 
but pure extension without solidity, must talk 
absurdly whenever they speak of vacuum; since 
it is impossible for extension to be without ex- 
tension. For vacuum, whether we affirm or deny 
its existence, signifies space without body; whose 
very existence no one can deny to be possible, 
who will not make matter infinite, and take from 
God a power to annihilate any particle of it. 

23. Motion proves a vacuum. But not to go so far 
as beyond the utmost bounds of body in the uni- 
verse, nor appeal to God's omnipotency to find 
a vacuum, the motion of bodies that are in our 
view and neighbourhood seems to me plainly to 
evince it. For I desire any one so to divide a 
solid body, of any dimension he pleases, as to 
make it possible for the solid parts to move up 
and down freely every way within the bounds of 
that superficies, if there be not left in it a void 
space as big as the least part into which he has 
divided the said solid body. And i where the 
least particle of the body divided is as big as a 
mustard-seed, a void space equal to the bulk of 
a mustard-seed be requisite to make room for 
the free motion of the parts of the divided body 
within the bounds of its superficies, where the 
particles of matter are 100,000,000 less than a 
mustard-seed, there must also be a space void of 
solid matter as big as 1 00,000,000 part of a mus- 
tard-seed; for if it hold in the one it will hold in 
the other, and so on in infinitum. And let this void 
space be as little as it will, it destroys the hy- 
pothesis of plenitude. For if there can be a space 
void of body equal to the smallest separate par- 
ticle of matter now existing in nature, it is still 
space without body; and makes as great a dif- 
ference between space and body as if it were 
ju&ya X&GP&9 a distance as wide as any in nature. 
And therefore, if we suppose not the void space 
necessary to motion equal to the least parcel of 
the divided solid matter, but to -fa or -nnnr ^ H 
the same consequence will always follow of space 
without matter. 



154 



JOHN LOCKE 



24. The ideas of space and body distinct. But the 
question being here, Whether the idea of space 
or extension be the same with the idea of body? 
it is not necessary to prove the real existence of a 
vacuum, but the idea of it; which it is plain men 
have when they inquire and dispute whether 
there be a vacuum or no. For if they had not the 
idea of space without body, they could not make 
a question about its existence: and if their idea 
of body did not include in it something more 
than the bare idea of space, they could have no 
doubt about the plenitude of the world; and it 
would be as absurd to demand, whether there 
were space without body, as whether there were 
space without space, or body without body, since 
these were but different names of the same idea. 

25. Extension being inseparable from body, proves 
it not the same. It is true, the idea of extension 
joins itself so inseparably with all visible, and 
most tangible qualities, that it suffers us to see no 
one, or feel very few external objects, without 
raking in impressions of extension too. This read- 
iness of extension to make itself be taken notice 
of so constantly with other ideas, has been the 
occasion, I guess, that some have made the whole 
essence of body to consist in extension; which is 
not much to be wondered at, since some have 
had their minds, by their eyes and touch, (the 
busiest of all our senses,) so filled with the idea 
of extension, and, as it were, wholly possessed 
with it, that they allowed no existence to any- 
thing that had not extension. I shall not now 
argue with those men, who take the measure 
and possibility of all being only from their nar- 
row and gross imaginations: but having here to 
do only with those who conclude the essence of 
body to be extension, because they say they can- 
not imagine any sensible quality of any body 
without extension, I shall desire them to con- 
sider, that, had they reflected on their ideas of 
tastes and smells as much as on those of sight 
and touch; nay, had they examined their ideas 
of hunger and thirst, and several other pains, 
they would have found that they included in 
them no idea of extension at all, which is but an 
affection of body, as well as the rest, discovera- 
ble by our senses, which are scarce acute enough 
to look into the pure essences of things. 

,26. Essences of things. If those ideas which are 
constantly joined to all others, must therefore be 
concluded to be the essence of those things which 
have constantly those ideas joined to them, and 
are inseparable from them; then unity is with- 
out doubt the essence of everything. For there is 
not any object of sensation or reflection which 
does not carry with it the idea of one: but the 



BOOK II 

weakness of this kind of argument we have al- 
ready shown sufficiently. 

27. Ideas of space and solidity distinct. To con- 
clude: whatever men shall think concerning the 
existence of a vacuum, this is plain to me that 
we have as clear an idea of space distinct from 
solidity, as we have of solidity distinct from mo- 
tion, or motion from space. We have not any 
two more distinct ideas; and we can as easily 
conceive space without solidity, as we can con- 
ceive body or space without motion, though it be 
never so certain that neither body nor motion 
can exist without space. But whether any one 
will take space to be only a relation resulting from 
the existence of other beings at a distance; or 
whether they will think the words of the most 
knowing King Solomon, "The heaven, and the 
heaven of heavens, cannot contain thee" ; or those 
more emphatical ones of the inspired philoso- 
pher St. Paul, "In him we live, move, and have 
our being, "are to be understood in a literal sense, 
I leave every one to consider: only our idea of 
space is, I think, such as I have mentioned, and 
distinct from that of body. For, whether we con- 
sider, in matter itself the distance of its coherent 
solid parts, and call it, in respect of those solid 
parts, extension; or whether, considering it as 
lying between the extremities of any body in its 
several dimensions, we call it length, breadth, 
and thickness; or else, considering it as lying be- 
tween any two bodies or positive beings, with- 
out any consideration whether there be any mat- 
ter or not between, we call it distance; how- 
ever named or considered, it is always the same 
uniform simple idea of space, taken from objects 
about which our senses have been conversant; 
whereof, having settled ideas in our minds, we 
can revive, repeat, and add them one to another 
as often as we will, and consider the space or dis- 
tance so imagined, either as filled with solid parts, 
so that another body cannot come there with- 
out displacing and thrusting out the body that 
was there before; or else as void of solidity, so 
that a body of equal dimensions to that empty 
or pure space may be placed in it, without the 
removing or expulsion of anything that was there. 
But, to avoid confusion in discourses concerning 
this matter, it were possibly to be wished that 
the name extension were applied only to matter, 
or the distance of the extremities of particular 
bodies; and the term expansion to space in gen- 
eral, with or without solid matter possessing it, 
so as to say space is expanded and body ex- 
tended. But in this every one has his liberty: I 
propose it only for the more clear and distinct 
way of speaking. 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP. XIV 

28. Men differ little in clear, simple ideas. The 
knowing precisely what our words stand for, 
would, I imagine, in this as well as a great many 
other cases, quickly end the dispute. For I am 
apt to think that men,_when they come to exam- 
ine them, find their simple ideas all generally to 
agree, though in discourse with one another they 
perhaps confound one another with different 
names. I imagine that men who abstract their 
thoughts, and do well examine the ideas of their 
own minds, cannot much differ in thinking; how- 
ever they may perplex themselves with words, 
according to the way of speaking of the several 
schools or sects they have been bred up in : though 
amongst unthinking men, who examine not 
scrupulously and carefully their own ideas, and 
strip them not from the marks men use for them, 
but confound them with words, there must be 
endless dispute, wrangling, and jargon; especially 
if they be learned, bookish men, devoted to some 
sect, and accustomed to the language of it, and 
have learned to talk after others. But if it should 
happen that any two thinking men should real- 
ly have different ideas, I do not see how they 
could discourse or argue one with another. Here 
I must not be mistaken, to think that every float- 
ing imagination in men's brains is presently of 
that sort of ideas I speak of. It is not easy for the 
mind to put off those confused notions and prej- 
udices it has imbibed from custom, inadvertency, 
and common conversation. It requires pains and 
assiduity to examine its ideas, till it resolves them 
into those clear and distinct simple ones, out of 
which they are compounded; and to see which, 
amongst its simple ones, have or have not a nec- 
essary connexion and dependence one upon an- 
other. Till a man doth this in the primary and 
original notions of things, he builds upon float- 
ing and uncertain principles, and will often find 
himself at a loss. 

Chap. XIV. Idea of Duration and its 
Simple Modes 

1. Duration is fleeting extension. There is another 
sort of distance, or length, the idea whereof we 
get not from the permanent parts of space, but 
from the fleeting and perpetually perishing parts 
of succession. This we call duration; the simple 
modes whereof are any different lengths of it 
whereof we have distinct ideas, as hours, days, 
years, &a, time and eternity. 

2. Its idea from reflection on the train of our ideas. 
The answer of a great man, to one who asked 
what time was: Si nan rogas intdligo^ (which 
amounts to this; The more I set myself to think 
of it, the less I understand it,) might perhaps 



persuade one that time, which reveals all other 
things, is itself not to be discovered. Duration, 
time, and eternity, are, not without reason, 
thought to have something very abstruse in their 
nature. But however remote these may seem from 
our comprehension, yet if we trace them right to 
their originals, I doubt not but one of those sources 
of all our knowledge, viz. sensation and reflec- 
tion, will be able to furnish us with these ideas, 
as clear and distinct as many others which are 
thought much less obscure; and we shall find 
that the idea of eternity itself is derived from 
the same common original with the rest of our 
ideas. 

3. Nature and origin of the idea of duration. To 
understand time and eternity aright, we ought with 
attention to consider what idea it is we have of 
duration, and how we came by it. It is evident to 
any one who will but observe what passes in his 
own mind, that there is a train of ideas which 
constantly succeed one another in his understand- 
ing, as long as he is awake. Reflection on these 
appearances of several ideas one after another 
in our minds, is that which furnishes us with the 
idea of succession', and the distance between any 
parts of that succession, or between the appear- 
ance of any two ideas in our minds, is that we 
call duration. For whilst we are thinking, or whilst 
we receive successively several ideas in oui 
minds, we know that we do exist; and so we cal 
the existence, or the continuation of the existence 
of ourselves^ or anything else, commensurate to 
the succession of any ideas in our minds, the 
duration of ourselves, or any such other thing 
co-existent with our thinking. 

4. Proof that its idea is got from reflection on the 
train of our ideas. That we have our notion of suc- 
cession and duration from this original, viz. from 
reflection on the train of ideas, which we find to 
appear one after another in our own minds, seems 
plain to me, in that we have no perception 
of duration but by considering the train of ideas 
that take their turns in our understandings, 
When that succession of ideas ceases, our percep- 
tion of duration ceases with it; which every one 
clearly experiments in himself, whilst he sleeps 
soundly, whether an hour or a day, a month or 
a year; of which duration of things, while he 
sleeps or thinks not, he has no perception at all, 
but it is quite lost to him; and the moment where- 
in he leaves off to think, till the moment he be- 
gins to think again, seems to him to have no dis- 
tance. And so I doubt not it would be to a wak- 
ing man, if it were possible for him to keep only 
one idea in his miad a without variation and the 
succession of others. And we see* that one who 



156 



JOHN LOCKE 



fixes his thoughts very intently on one thing, so 
as to take but little notice of the succession of 
ideas that pass in his mind, whilst he is taken up 
with that earnest contemplation, lets slip out of 
his account a good part of that duration, and 
thinks that time shorter than it is. But if sleep 
commonly unites the distant parts of duration, 
it is because during that time we have no suc- 
cession of ideas in our minds. For if a man, dur- 
ing his sleep, dreams, and variety of ideas make 
themselves perceptible in his mind one after an- 
other, he hath then, during such dreaming, a 
sense of duration, and of the length of it. By 
which it is to me very clear, that men derive 
their ideas of duration from their reflections on 
the train of the ideas they observe to succeed 
one another in their own understandings; with- 
out which observation they can have no notion 
of duration, whatever may happen in the world. 

5. The idea of duration applicable to things whilst 
we sleep. Indeed a man having, from reflecting 
on the succession and number of his own thoughts, 
got the notion or idea of duration, he can apply 
that notion to things which exist while he does 
not think; as he that has got the idea of exten- 
sion from bodies by his sight or touch, can ap- 
ply it to distances, where no body is seen or felt 
And therefore, though a man has no perception 
of the length of duration which passed whilst he 
slept or thought not; yet, having observed the 
revolution of days and nights, and found the 
length of their duration to be in appearance regu- 
lar and constant, he can, upon the supposition 
that that revolution has proceeded after the same 
manner whilst he was asleep or thought not, as 
it used to do at other times, he can, I say, imag- 
ine and make allowance for the length of dura- 
tion whilst he slept. But if Adam and Eve, (when 
they were alone in the world), instead of their 
ordinary night's sleep, had passed the whole 
twenty-four hours in one continued sleep, the 
duration of that twenty-four hours had been ir- 
recoverably lost to them, and been for ever left 
out of their account of time. 

6. The idea of succession not from motion. Thus by 
reflecting 1 on the appearing of various ideas one 
after another in our understandings, we get the 
notion of succession; which, if any one should 
think we did rather get from our observation of 
motion by our senses, he will perhaps be of my 
mind when he considers, that even motion pro- 
duces in his mind an idea of succession no other- 
wise than as it produces there a comthmed train 
of distinguishable ideas. For a man looking up- 
on a body reaHy moving,, perceives yet no mo- 

*G W, Jaabes, P&Megf, pf>; $98-99. 



BOOK II 

tion at all unless that motion produces a con- 
stant train of successive ideas: v.g. a man be- 
calmed at sea, out of sight of land, in a fair day, 
may look on the sun, or sea, or ship, a whole 
hour together, and perceive no motion at all in 
either; though it be certain that two, and per- 
haps all of them, have moved during that time 
a great way. But as soon as he perceives either 
of them to have changed distance with some 
other body, as soon as this motion produces any 
new idea in him, then he perceives that there 
has been -motion. But wherever a man is, with 
all things at rest about him, without perceiving 
any motion at all, if during this hour of quiet 
he has been thinking, he will perceive the vari- 
ous ideas of his own thoughts in his own mind, 
appearing one after another, and thereby ob- 
serve and find succession where he could observe 
no motion. 

7. Very slow motions unperceived. And this, I think, 
is the reason why motions very slow, though they 
are constant, are not perceived by us; because 
in their remove from one sensible part towards 
another, their change of distance is so slow, that 
it causes no new ideas in us, but a good while 
one after another. And so not causing a constant 
train of new ideas to follow one another immed- 
iately in our minds, we have no perception of 
motion; which consisting in a constant succes- 
sion, we cannot perceive that succession with- 
out a constant succession of varying ideas aris- 
ing from it. 

8. Very swift motions unperceived. On the con- 
trary, things that move so swift as not to affect 
the senses distinctly with several distinguishable 
distances of their motion, and so cause not any 
train of ideas in the mind, are not also per- 
ceived. For anything that moves round about in 
a circle, in less times than our ideas are wont to 
succeed one another in our minds, is not per- 
ceived to move; but seems to be a perfect entire 
circle of that matter or colour, and not a part of 
a circle in motion. 

9. The train of ideas has a certain degree of quick- 
ness. Hence I leave it to others to judge, whether 
it be not probable that our ideas do, whilst we 
are awake, succeed one another in our minds at 
certain distances; not much unlike the images 
in the inside of a lantern, turned round by the 
heat of a candle. This appearance of theirs in 
train, though perhaps it may be sometimes faster 
and sometimes slower, yet, I guess, 2 varies not 
very much in a waking man: there seem to be 
certain bounds to the quickness and slowness of 

*"guess" used by Locke for "conjecture" in 
several places. (See cE. iriff. 25.) 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP. XIV 

the succession of those ideas one to another in 
our minds, beyond which they can neither de- 
lay nor hasten. 

10. Real succession in swift motions without sense 
of succession. The reason I have for this odd con- 
jecture is, from observing that, in the impres- 
sions made upon any of our senses, we can but to 
a certain degree perceive any succession; which, 
if exceeding quick, the sense of succession is lost, 
even in cases where it is evident that there is a 
real succession. Let a cannon-bullet pass through 
a room, and in its way take with it any limb, or 
fleshy parts of a man, it is as clear as any de- 
monstration can be, that it must strike succes- 
sively the two sides of the room: it is also evi- 
dent that it must touch one part of the flesh 
first, and another after, and so in succession: 
and yet, I believe, nobody who ever felt the 
pain of such a shot, or heard the blow against 
the two distant walls, could perceive any suc- 
cession either in the pain or sound of so swift a 
stroke. Such a part of duration as this, wherein 
we perceive no succession, is that which we call 
an instant, and is that which takes up the time of 
only one idea in our minds, without the succes- 
sion of another; wherein, therefore, we perceive 
no succession at all. 

11. In slow motions. This also happens where 
the motion is so slow as not to supply a constant 
train of fresh ideas to the senses, as fast as the 
mind is capable of receiving new ones into it; 
and so other ideas of our own thoughts, having 
room to come into our minds between those of- 
fered to our senses by the moving body, there 
the sense of motion is lost; and the body, though 
it really moves, yet, not changing perceivable 
distance with some other bodies as fast as the 
ideas of our own minds do naturally follow one 
another in train, the thing seems to stand still; 
as is evident in the hands of clocks, and shadows 
of sun-dials, and other constant but slow motions, 
where, though, after certain intervals, we per- 
ceive, by the change of distance, that it hath 
moved, yet the motion itself we perceive not. 

12. This train, the measure of other successions. So 
that to me it seems, that the constant and regu- 
lar succession of ideas in a waking man, is, as it 
were, the measure and standard of all other suc- 
cessions. Whereof, if any one either exceeds the 
pace of our ideas, as where two sounds or pains, 
&c., take up in their succession the duration of 
but one idea; or else where any motion or suc- 
cession is so slow, as that it keeps not pace with 
the ideas in our minds, or the quickness in which 
they take their turns, as when any one or more 
ideas in their ordinary course come into our 



157 



mind, between those which are offered to the 
sight by the different perceptible distances of a 
body in motion, or between sounds or smells 
following one another, there also the sense of 
a constant continued succession is lost, and we 
perceive it not, but with certain gaps of rest be- 
tween. 

1 3. The mind cannot fix long on one invariable idea. 
If it be so, that the ideas of our minds, whilst we 
have any there, do constantly change and shift 
in a continual succession, it would be impossi- 
ble, may any one say, for a man to think long of 
any one thing. By which, if it be meant that a 
man may have one self-same single idea a long 
time alone in his mind, without any variation at 
all, I think, in matter of fact, it is not possible. 
For which (not knowing how the ideas of our 
minds are framed, of what materials they are 
made, whence they have their light, and how 
they come to make their appearances) I can 
give no other reason but experience: and I would 
have any one try, whether he can keep one un- 
varied single idea in his mind, without any other, 
for any considerable time together. 

14. Proof. For trial, let him take any figure, 
any degree of light or whiteness, or what other 
he pleases, and he will, I suppose, find it diffi- 
cult to keep all other ideas out of his mind; but 
that some, either of another kind, or various con- 
siderations of that idea, (each of which con- 
siderations is a new idea), will constantly suc- 
ceed one another in his thoughts, let him be as 
wary as he can. 1 

15. The extent of our power over the succession of 
our ideas. All that is in a man's power in this case, 
I think, is only to mind and observe what the 
ideas are that take their turns in his understand- 
ing; or else to direct the sort, and call in such as 
he hath a desire or use of: but hinder the con- 
stant succession of fresh ones, I thmk he cannot, 
though he may commonly choose whether he 
will needfully observe and consider them. 

1 6. Ideas y however made, include no sense of motion. 
Whether these several ideas in a man's mind be 
made by certain motions, I will not here dis- 
pute; but this I am sure, that they include no 
idea of motion in their appearance; and if a man 
had not the idea of motion otherwise, I think he 
would have none at all, which is enough to my 
present purpose; and sufficiently shows that the 
notice we take of the ideas of our own minds, 
appearing there one after another, is that which 
gives us the idea of succession and duration, 
without which we should have no such ideas at 
all. It is not then motion, but the constant train 

1 C James, Psychology, 272. 



158 



JOHN LOCKE 



of ideas in our minds whilst we are waking, that 
furnishes us with the idea of duration; whereof 
motion no otherwise gives us any perception 
than as it causes in our minds a constant suc- 
cession of ideas, as I have before showed: and 
we have as clear an idea of succession and dura- 
tion, by the train of other ideas succeeding one 
another in our minds, without the idea of any 
motion, as by the train of ideas caused by the 
uninterrupted sensible change of distance be- 
tween two bodies, which we have from motion; 
and therefore we should as well have the idea 
of duration were there no sense of motion at all. 

1 7. Time is duration set out by measures. Having 
thus got the idea of duration, the next thing nat- 
ural for the mind to do, is to get some measure of 
this common duration, whereby it might judge 
of its different lengths, and consider the distinct 
order wherein several things exist; without which 
a great part of our knowledge would be con- 
fused, and a great part of history be rendered 
very useless. This consideration of duration, as 
set out by certain periods, and marked by cer- 
tain measures or epochs, is that, I think, which 
most properly we call time. 

1 8. A good measure of time must divide its whole 
duration into equal periods. In the measuring of ex- 
tension, there is nothing more required but the 
application of the standard or measure we make 
use of to the thing of whose extension we would 
be informed. But in the measuring of duration 
this cannot be done, because no two different 
parts of succession can be put together to meas- 
ure one another. And nothing being a measure 
of duration but duration, as nothing is of exten- 
sion but extension, we cannot keep by us any 
standing, unvarying measure of duration, which 
consists in a constant fleeting succession, as we 
can of certain lengths of extension, as inches, 
feet, yards, &c., marked out in permanent par- 
cels of matter. Nothing then could serve well 
for a convenient measure of time, but what has 
divided the whole length of its duration into ap- 
parently equal portions, by constantly repeated 
periods. What portions of duration are not dis- 
tinguished, or considered as distinguished and 
measured, by such periods, come not so prop- 
erly under the notion of time; as appears by such 
phrases as these, viz. "Before all time," and 
"When time shall be no more." 1 

1 9. The revolutions of the sun and moon, the proper- 
est measures of time for mankind. The diurnal and 
annual revolutions of the sun, as having been, 
from the beginning of nature, constant, regular, 
and universally observable by all mankind, and 

1 C. 24. 



BOOK II 

supposed equal to one another, have been with 
reason made use of for the measure of duration. 
But the distinction of days and years having de- 
pended on the motion of the sun, it has brought 
this mistake with it, that it has been thought 
that motion and duration were the measure one 
of another. For men, in the measuring of the 
length of time, having been accustomed to the 
ideas of minutes, hours, days, months, years, 
&c., which they found themselves upon any 
mention of time or duration presently to think 
on, all which portions of time were measured 
out by the motion of those heavenly bodies, they 
were apt to confound time and motion; or at 
least to think that they had a necessary connex- 
ion one with another. Whereas any constant 
periodical appearance, or alteration of ideas, in 
seemingly equidistant spaces of duration, if con- 
stant and universally observable, would have as 
well distinguished the intervals of time, as those 
that have been made use of. For, supposing the 
sun, which some have taken to be a fire, had 
been lighted up at the same distance of time 
that it now every day comes about to the same 
meridian, and then gone out again about twelve 
hours after, and that in the space of an annual 
revolution it had sensibly increased in brightness 
and heat, and so decreased again, would not 
such regular appearances serve to measure out 
the distances of duration to all that could ob- 
serve it, as well without as with motion? For if 
the appearances were constant, universally ob- 
servable, in equidistant periods, they would 
serve mankind for measure of time as well were 
the motion away. 

20. But not by their motion, but periodical appear- 
ances. For the freezing of water, or the blowing 
of a plant, returning at equidistant periods in all 
parts of the earth, would as well serve men to 
reckon their years by, as the motions of the sun: 
and in effect we see, that some people in Amer- 
ica counted their years by the coming of certain 
birds amongst them at their certain seasons, and 
leaving them at others. For a fit of an ague; the 
sense of hunger or thirst; a smell or a taste; or 
any other idea returning constantly at equidis- 
tant periods, and making itself universally be 
taken notice of, would not fail to measure out 
the course of succession, and distinguish the dis- 
tances of time. Thus we see that men born blind 
count time well enough by years, whose revolu- 
tions yet they cannot distinguish by motions 
that they perceive not. And I ask whether a 
blind man, who distinguished his years either by 
the heat of summer, or cold of winter; by the 
smell of any flower of the spring, or taste of any 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP. XIV 

fruit of the autumn, would not have a better 
measure of time than the Romans had before 
the reformation of their calendar by Julius Cae- 
sar, or many other people whose years, notwith- 
standing the motion of the sun, which they pre- 
tended to make use of, are very irregular? And 
it adds no small difficulty to chronology, that 
the exact lengths of the years that several na- 
tions counted by, are hard to be known, they 
differing very much one from another, and I 
think I may say all of them from the precise mo- 
tion of the sun. And if the sun moved from the 
creation to the flood constantly in the equator, 
and so equally dispersed its light and heat to all 
the habitable parts of the earth, in days all of 
the same length, without its annual variations 
to the tropics, as a late ingenious author 1 sup- 
poses, I do not think it very easy to imagine, that 
(notwithstanding the motion of the sun) men 
should in the antediluvian world, from the be- 
ginning, count by years, or measure their time 
by periods that had no sensible marks very ob- 
vious to distinguish them by. 

2 1 . No two parts of duration can be certainly known 
to be equal. But perhaps it will be said, without 
a regular motion, such as of the sun, or some 
other, how could it ever be known that such 
periods were equal? To which I answer, the 
equality of any other returning appearances 
might be known by the same way that that of 
days was known, or presumed to be so at first; 
which was only by judging of them by the train 
of ideas which had passed in men's minds in the 
intervals; by which train of ideas discovering 
inequality in the natural days, but none in the 
artificial days, the artificial days, or wxftfoepa, 
were guessed to be equal, which was sufficient 
to make them serve for a measure; though ex- 
acter search has since discovered inequality in 
the diurnal revolutions of the sun, and we know 
not whether the annual also be not unequal. 
These yet, by their presumed and apparent 
equality, serve as well to reckon time by (though 
not to measure the parts of duration exactiy) as 
if they could be proved to be exactly equal. We 
must, therefore, carefully distinguish betwixt 
duration itself, and the measures we make use 
of to judge of its length. Duration, in itself, is to 
be considered as going on in one constant, equal, 
uniform course: but none of the measures of it 
which we make use of can be known to do so, nor 
can we be assured that their assigned parts or 
periods are equal in duration one to another; 
for two successive lengths of duration, however 

1 Thomas Burnet, in his Theory of the Earth* 



'59 



measured, can never be demonstrated to be 
equal. The motion of the sun, which the world 
used so long and so confidently for an exact 
measure of duration, has, as I said, been found 
in its several parts unequal. And though men 
have, of late, made use of a pendulum, as a more 
steady and regular motion than that of the sun, 
or, (to speak more truly), of the earth; yet if 
any one should be asked how he certainly knows 
that the two successive swings of a pendulum 
are equal, it would be very hard to satisfy him 
that they are infallibly so; since we cannot be 
sure that the cause of that motion, which is un- 
known to us, shall always operate equally; and 
we are sure that the medium in which the pen- 
dulum moves is not constantly the same: either 
of which varying, may alter the equality of such 
periods, and thereby destroy the certainty and 
exactness of the measure by motion, as well as 
any other periods of other appearances; the no- 
tion of duration still remaining clear, though 
our measures of it cannot (any of them) be 
demonstrated to be exact. Since then no two 
portions of succession can be brought together, 
it is impossible ever certainly to know their 
equality. All that we can do for a measure of 
time is, to take such as have continual successive 
appearances at seemingly equidistant periods; 
of which seeming equality we have no other 
measure, but such as the train of our own ideas 
have lodged in our memories, with the concur- 
rence of other probable reasons, to persuade us of 
their equality. 

22, Time not the measure of motion. One thing 
seems strange to me, that whilst all men man- 
ifestly measured time by the motion of the great 
and visible bodies of the world, time yet should 
be defined to be the"measure of motion" : where- 
as it is obvious to every one who reflects ever so 
little on it, that to measure motion s space is as 
necessary to be considered as time; and those 
who look a little farther will find also the bulk 
of the thing moved necessary to be taken into 
the computation, by any one who will estimate 
or measure motion so as to judge right of it. Nor 
indeed does motion any otherwise conduce to 
the measuring of duration, than as it constantly 
brings about the return of certain sensible ideas, 
in seeming equidistant periods. For if the motion 
of the sun were as unequal as of a ship driven by 
unsteady winds, sometimes very slow, and at 
others irregularly very swift; or if, being con- 
stantly equally swift, it yet was not circular, and 
produced not the same appearances, it would 
not at all help us to measure time, any more than 
the seeming unequal motion of a comet does. 



JOHN LOCKE 



1 60 

23. Minutes^ hours, days, and years not necessary 
measures of duration. Minutes, hours, days, and 
years are, then, no more necessary to time or 
duration, than inches, feet, yards, and miles, 
marked out in any matter, are to extension. For, 
though we in this part of the universe, by the 
constant use of them, as of periods set out by the 
revolutions of the sun, or as known parts of such 
periods, have fixed the ideas of such lengths of 
duration in our minds, which we apply to all 
parts of time whose lengths we would consider; 
yet there may be other parts of the universe, 
where they no more use these measures of ours, 
than in Japan they do our inches, feet, or miles; 
but yet something analogous to them there must 
be. For without some regular periodical returns, 
we could not measure ourselves, or signify to 
others, the length of any duration; though at 
the same time the world were as full of motion 
as it is now, but no part of it disposed into regu- 
lar and apparently equidistant revolutions. But 
the different measures that may be made use of 
for the account of time, do not at all alter the 
notion of duration, which is the thing to be 
measured; no more than the different standards 
of afoot and a cubit alter the notion of extension 
to those who make use of those different meas- 
ures. 

24. Our measure of time applicable to duration be- 
fore time. The mind having once got such a meas- 
ure of time as the annual revolution of the sun, 
can apply that measure to duration wherein 
that measure itself did not exist, and with which, 
in the reality of its being, it had nothing to do. 
For should one say, that Abraham was born in 
the two thousand seven hundred and twelfth 
year of the Julian period, it is altogether as in- 
telligible as reckoning from the beginning of the 
world, though there were so far back no motion 
of the sun, nor any motion at all. For, though 
the Julian period be supposed to begin several 
hundred years before there were really either 
days, nights, or years, marked out by any revol- 
utions of the sun, yet we reckon as right, and 
thereby measure durations as well, as if really 
at that time the sun had existed, and kept the 
same ordinary motion it doth now. The idea of 
duration equal to an annual revolution of the 
sun, is as easily applicable in our thoughts to du- 
ration, where no sun or motion was, as the idea 
of a foot or yard, taken from bodies here, can be 
applied in our thoughts to duration, where no 
sun or motion was, as the idea of a foot or yard, 
taken from bodies her> can be applied in our 1 
thoughts to distances beyoBd the confines of the 
world, where are no bodies at aJL 



BOOK II 



25. As we can measure space in our thoughts where 
there is no body. For supposing it were 5639 miles, 
or millions of miles, from this place to the re- 
motest body of the universe, (for being finite, it 
must be at a certain distance), as we suppose it 
to be 5639 years from this time to the first exist- 
ence of any body in the beginning of the world; 
we can, in our thoughts, apply this measure 
of a year to duration before the creation, or be- 
yond the duration of bodies or motion, as we 
can this measure of a mile to space beyond the 
utmost bodies; and by the one measure dura- 
tion, where there was no motion, as well as by 
the other measure space in our thoughts, where 
there is no body. 

26. The assumption that the world is neither bound- 
less nor eternal. If it be objected to me here, that, 
in this way of explaining of time, I have begged 
what I should not, viz. that the world is neither 
eternal nor infinite; I answer, That to my pres- 
ent purpose it is not needful, in this place, to 
make use of arguments to evince the world to be 
finite both hi duration and extension. But it be- 
ing at least as conceivable as the contrary, I 
have certainly the liberty to suppose it, as well 
as any one hath to suppose the contrary; and I 
doubt not, but that every one that will go about 
it, may easily conceive in his mind the begin- 
ning of motion, though not of all duration, and 
so may come to a step and non ultra in his con- 
sideration of motion. So also, in his thoughts, he 
may set limits to body, and the extension be- 
longing to it; but not to space, where no body is, 
the utmost bounds of space and duration being 
beyond the reach of thought, as well as the ut- 
most bounds of number are beyond the largest 
comprehension of the mind; and all for the same 
reason, as we shall see in another place. 

27. Eternity. By the same means, therefore, 
and from the same original that we come to have 
the idea of time, we have also that idea which 
we call Eternity; viz. having got the idea of suc- 
cession and duration, by reflecting on the train 
of our own ideas, caused in us either by the nat- 
ural appearances of those ideas coming con- 
stantly of themselves into our waking thoughts, 
or else caused by external objects successively 
affecting our senses; and having from the revo- 
lutions of the sun got the ideas of certain lengths 
of duration, we can in our thoughts add such 
lengths of duration to one another, as often as 
we please, -and apply them, so added, to dura- 
tions past or to come. And this we can continue 
to do on, without bounds or limits, and proceed 
in infinitum, and apply thus the length of the an- 
nual motion of the sun to duration, supposed 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP. XIV 

before the sun's or any other motion had its be- 
ing; which is no more difficult or absurd, than 
to apply the notion I have of the moving of a 
shadow one hour to-day upon the sun-dial to 
the duration of something last night, v.g. the 
burning of a candle, which is now absolutely 
separate from all actual motion; and it is as im- 
possible for the duration of that flame for an 
hour last night to co-exist with any motion that 
now is, or for ever shall be, as for any part of 
duration, that was before the beginning of the 
world, to co-exist with the motion of the sun 
now. But yet this hinders not but that, having 
the idea of the length of the motion of the shadow 
on a dial between the marks of two hours, I can 
as distinctly measure in my thoughts the dura- 
tion of that candle-light last night, as I can the 
duration of anything that does now exist: and it 
is no more than to think, that, had the sun shone 
then on the dial, and moved after the same rate 
it doth now, the shadow on the dial would have 
passed from one hour-line to another whilst 
that flame of the candle lasted. 

28. Our measures of duration dependent on our idtas. 
The notion of an hour, day, or year, being only 
the idea I have of the length of certain periodi- 
cal regular motions, neither of which motions 
do ever all at once exist, but only in the ideas I 
have of them in nay memory derived from my 
senses or reflection; I can with the same ease, 
and for the same reason, apply it in my thoughts 
to duration antecedent to all manner of motion, 
as well as to anything that is but a minute or a 
day antecedent to the motion that at this very 
moment the sun is in. All things past are equally 
and perfectly at rest; and to this way of consid- 
eration of them are all one, whether they were 
before the beginning of the world, or but yes- 
terday: the measuring of any duration by some 
motion depending not at all on the real co-exist- 
ence of that thing to that motion, or any other 
periods of revolution, but the having a dear 
idea of the length of some periodical known mo- 
tion, or other interval of duration, in my mind, 
and applying that to the duration of the thing I 
would measure. 

29. The duration of anything need not be coexistent 
with the motion we measure it by. Hence we see that 
some men imagine the duration of the world, 
from its first existence to this present year 1689, 
to have been 5639 years, or equal to 5639 an- 
nual revolutions of the sun, and others a great 
deal more; as the Egyptians of old, who in the 
time of Alexander counted 23,000 years from 
the reign of the sun; and the Chinese now, who 
account the work! 3,5693000 years old, or more; 



161 



which longer duration of the world, according 
to their computation, though I should not be- 
lieve to be true, yet I can equally imagine it with 
them, and as truly understand, and say one is 
longer than the other, as I understand, that 
Methusalem's life was longer than Enoch's. And 
if the common reckoning of 5639 should be true, 
(as it may be as well as any other assigned,) it 
hinders not at all my imagining what others 
mean, when they make the world one thousand 
years older, since every one may with the same 
facility imagine (I do not say believe) the world 
to be 50,000 years old, as 5639; and may as well 
conceive the duration of 50,000 years as 5639. 
Whereby it appears that, to the measuring the 
duration of anything by time, it is not requisite 
that that thing should be co-existent to the mo- 
tion we measure by, or any other periodical rev- 
olution; but it suffices to this purpose, that we 
have the idea of the length of any regular peri- 
odical appearances, which we can in our minds 
apply to duration, with which the motion or 
appearance never co-existed. 

30. Infinity in duration. For, as in the history of 
the creation delivered by Moses, I can imagine 
that light existed three days before the sun was, 
or had any motion, barely by thinking that the 
duration of light before the sun was created was 
so long as (if the sun had moved then as it doth 
now) would have been equal to three of his diur- 
nal revolutions; so by the same way I can have 
an idea of the chaos, or angels, being created 
before there was either light or any continued 
motion, a minute, an hour, a day, a year, or one 
thousand years. For, if I can but consider dura- 
tion equal to one minute, before either the being 
or motion of any body, I can add one minute 
more till I come to sixty; and by the same way 
of adding minutes, hours, or years (Le. such or 
such parts of the sun's revolutions, or any other 
period whereof I have the idea) proceed in infirti- 
tum, and suppose a duration exceeding as many 
such periods as I can reckon, let me add -whilst 
I will, which I think is the notion we have of 
eternity; of whose infinity we have no other no- 
tion than we have of the infinity of number, to 
which we can add for ever without end., 

31. Origin of our ideas of duration, and of the 
measures of it. And thus I think* it is plain, that 
from those two fountains of all knowledge be- 
fore mentioned, viz. reflection and sensation, we 
got the ideas of duration, and the measures of it. 

For, First, by observing what passes in our 
minds, how our ideas there in train constantly 
some vanish and others begin to appear, we 
come by the idea of succession. 



l62 

Secondly, by observing a distance in the parts 
of this succession, we get the idea of duration. 

Thirdly, by sensation observing certain ap- 
pearances, at certain regular and seeming equi- 
distant periods, we get the ideas of certain 
lengths or measures of duration, as minutes, hours, 
days, years, &c. 

Fourthly, by being able to repeat those meas- 
ures of time, or ideas of stated length of dura- 
tion, in our minds, as often as we will, we can 
come to imagine duration, where nothing does really 
endure or exist', and thus we imagine to-morrow, 
next year, or seven years hence. 

Fifthly, by being able to repeat ideas of any 
length of time, as of a minute, a year, or an age, 
as often as we will in our own thoughts, and add- 
ing them one to another, without ever coming 
to the end of such addition, any nearer than we 
can to the end of number, to which we can al- 
ways add; we come by the idea of eternity, as the 
future eternal duration of our souls, as well as 
the eternity of that infinite Being which must 
necessarily have always existed. 

Sixthly, by considering any part of infinite 
duration, as set out by periodical measures, we 
come by the idea of what we call time in general. 

Chap. XV. Ideas of Duration and 
Expansion, considered together 

i. Both capable of greater and less. Though we 
have in the precedent chapters dwelt pretty long 
on the considerations of space and duration, yet, 
they being ideas of general ^concernment, that 
have something very abstruse and peculiar in 
their nature, the comparing them one with an- 
other may perhaps be of use for their illustra- 
tion; and we may have the more clear and dis- 
tinct conception of them by taking a view of them 
together. Distance or space, in its simple abstract 
conception, to avoid confusion, I call expansion, 
to distinguish it from extension, which by some 
is used to express this distance only as it is in the 
solid parts of matter, and so includes, or at least 
intimates, the idea of body: whereas the idea of 
pure distance includes no such thing. I prefer 
also the word expansion to space, because space 
is often applied to distance of fleeting successive 
parts, whicE never exist together, 1 as well as to 
those which are permanent. 2 In both these (viz. 
expansion and duration) the mind has this com- 
mon idea of continued lengths, capable of great- 
er or less quantities. For a man has as clear an 
idea of the difference of the length of an hour 
and a day, as of an inch and a foot 

*e. g. distance or "space" of duration. Gf. 8. 
*Cf. ch. xiiL 2. 



JOHN LOCKE 



BOOK II 

2. Expansion not bounded by matter. The mind, 
having got the idea of the length of any part of 
expansion, let it be a span, or a pace, or what 
length you will, can, as has been said, repeat that 
idea, and so, adding it to the former, enlarge its 
idea of length, and make it equal to two spans, 
or two paces; and so, as often as it will, till it 
equals the distance of any parts of the earth one 
from another, and increase thus till it amounts 
to the distance of the sun or remotest star. By 
such a progression as this, setting out from the 
place where it is, or any other place, it can pro- 
ceed and pass beyond all those lengths, and find 
nothing to stop its going on, either in or without 
body. It is true, we can easily in our thoughts 
come to the end of solid extension; the extremity 
and bounds of all body we have no difficulty to 
arrive at: but when the mind is there, it finds 
nothing to hinder its progress into this endless 
expansion; of that it can neither find nor con- 
ceive any end. Nor let any one say, that beyond 
the bounds of body, there is nothing at all; un- 
less he will confine God within the limits of mat- 
ter. Solomon, whose understanding was filled 
and enlarged with wisdom, seems to have other 
thoughts when he says, "Heaven, and the heaven 
of heavens, cannot con tain thee." And he, I think, 
very much magnifies to himself the capacity of 
his own understanding, who persuades himself 
that he can extend his thoughts further than God 
exists, or imagine any expansion where He is not. 

3. Nor duration by motion. Just so is it in dura- 
tion. The mind having got the idea of any length 
of duration, can double, multiply, and enlarge 
it, not only beyond its own, but beyond the ex- 
istence of all corporeal beings, and all the meas- 
ures of time, taken from the great bodies of all 
the world and their motions. But yet every one 
easily admits, that, though we make duration 
boundless, as certainly it is, we cannot yet ex- 
tend it beyond all being. God, every one easily 
allows, fills eternity; and it is hard to find a rea- 
son why any one should doubt that He likewise 
fills immensity. His infinite being is certainly as 
boundless one way as another; and methinks it 
ascribes a little too much to matter to say, where 
there is no body, there is nothing. 

4. Why men more easily admit infinite duration than 
infinite expansion. Hence I think we may learn the 
reason why every one familarly and without the 
least hestiation speaks of and supposes Eternity, 
and sticks not to ascribe infinity to duration; but it 
is with more doubting and reserve that many 
admit or suppose the infinity of space. The reason 
whereof seems to me to be this, That duration 
and extension being used as names of affections 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP. XV 

belonging to other beings, we easily conceive in 
God infinite duration, and we cannot avoid do- 
ing so: but, not attributing to Him extension, but 
only to matter, which is finite, we are apter to 
doubt of the existence of expansion without mat- 
ter; of which alone we commonly suppose it an 
attribute. And, therefore, when men pursue their 
thoughts of space, they are apt to stop at the 
confines of body: as if space were there at an 
end too, and reached no further. Or if their 
ideas, upon consideration, carry them further, 
yet they term what is beyond the limits of the 
universe, imaginary space: as if it were nothing, 
because there is no body existing in it. 1 Whereas 
duration, antecedent to all body, and to the mo- 
tions which it is measured by, they never term 
imaginary: because it is never supposed void of 
some other real existence. And if the names of 
things may at all direct our thoughts towards 
the original of men's ideas, (as I am apt to think 
they may very much,) one may have occasion to 
think by the name duration, that the continua- 
tion of existence, with a kind of resistance to any 
destructive force, and the continuation of solid- 
ity (which is apt to be confounded with, and if 
we will look into the minute anatomical parts of 
matter, is little different from, hardness) were 
thought to have some analogy, and gave occa- 
sion to words so near of kin as durare and durum 
esse. And that durare is applied to the idea of 
hardness, as well as that of existence, we see in 
Horace, Epod. xvi.ferro dwravit secula. But, be 
that as it will, this is certain, that whoever pur- 
sues his own thoughts, will find them sometimes 
launch out beyond the extent of body, into the 
infinity of space or expansion; the idea whereof 
is distinct and separate from body and all other 
things: which may, (to those who please), be a 
subject of further meditation. 

5. Time to duration is as place to expansion. Time 
in general is to duration as place to expansion. 
They are so much of those boundless oceans of 
eternity and immensity as is set out and distin- 
guished from the rest, as it were by landmarks; 
and so are made use of to denote the position of 
finite real beings, in respect one to another, in 
those uniform infinite oceans of duration and 
space. These, rightly considered, are only ideas 
of determinate distances from certain known 
points, fixed in distinguishable sensible things, 
and supposed to keep the same distance one from 
another. From such points fixed in sensible be- 
ings we reckon, and from them we measure our 
portions of those infinite quantities; which, so 
considered, are that which we call time and place. 

1 Gf. ch. xiii. 27. 



163 



For duration and space being in themselves uni- 
form and boundless, the order and position of 
things, without such known settled points, would 
be lost in them; and all things would lie jumbled 
in an incurable confusion. 

6. Time and place are taken for so much of either as 
are set out by the existence and motion of bodies. Time 
and place, taken thus for determinate distin- 
guishable portions of those infinite abysses of 
space and duration, set out or supposed to be 
distinguished from the rest, by marks and known 
boundaries, have each of them a twofold accep- 
tation. 

First, Time in general is commonly taken for 
so much of infinite duration as is measured by, 
and co-existent with, the existence and motions 
of the great bodies of the universe, as far as we 
know anything of them: and in this sense time 
begins and ends with the frame of this sensible 
world, as in these phrases before mentioned, "Be- 
fore all time," or, "When time shall be no more." 
Place likewise is taken sometimes for that por- 
tion of infinite space which is possessed by and 
comprehended within the material world; and 
is thereby distinguished from the rest of expan- 
sion; though this may be more properly called 
extension than place. Within these two are con- 
fined, and by the observable parts of them are 
measured and determined, the particular time 
or duration, and the particular extension and 
place, of all corporeal beings. 

7. Sometimes for so much of either as we design by 
measures taken from the bulk or motion of bodies. Sec- 
ondly, sometimes the word time is used in a larger 
sense, and is applied to parts of that infinite du- 
ration, not that were really distinguished and 
measured out by this real existence, and periodi- 
cal motions of bodies, that were appointed from 
the beginning to be for signs and for seasons and 
for days and years, and are accordingly our 
measures of time; but such other portions too of 
that infinite uniform duration, which we upon 
any occasion do suppose equal to certain lengths of 
measured time; and so consider them as bounded 
and determined. For, if we should suppose the 
creation, or fall of the angels, was at the begin- 
ning of the Julian period, we should speak prop- 
erly enough, and should be understood if we 
said, it is a longer time since the creation of an- 
gels than the creation of the world, by 7640 
years: whereby we would mark out so much of 
that undistinguished duration as we suppose 
equal to, and would have admitted, 7640 annual 
revolutions of the sun, moving at the rate it now 
does. And thus likewise we sometimes speak of 
place, distance, or bulk, in the great inane, be- 



164 



JOHN LOCKE 



BOOK II 



yond the confines of the world, when we con- 
sider so much of that space as is equal to, or 
capable to receive, a body of any assigned di- 
mensions, as a cubic foot; or do suppose a point 
in it, at such a certain distance from any part of 
the universe. 

8. They belong to all finite beings. Where and when 
are questions belonging to all finite existences, 
and are by us always reckoned from some known 
parts of this sensible world, and from some cer- 
tain epochs marked out to us by the motions ob- 
servable in it. Without some such fixed parts or 
periods, the order of things would be lost, to our 
finite understandings, in the boundless invaria- 
ble oceans of duration and expansion, which 
comprehend in them all finite beings, and in 
their full extent belong only to the Deity. And 
therefore we are not to wonder that we compre- 
hend them not, and do so often find our thoughts 
at a loss, when we would consider them, either 
abstractly in themselves, or as any way attributed 
to the first incomprehensible Being. But when 
applied to any particular finite beings, the ex- 
tension of any body is so much of that infinite 
space as the bulk of the body takes up. And place 
is the position of any body, when considered at 
a certain distance from some other. As the idea 
of the particular duration of anything is, an idea 
of that portion of infinite duration which passes 
during the existence of that thing; so the time 
when the thing existed is, the idea of that space 
of duration which passed between some known 
and fixed period of duration, and the being of 
that thing. One shows the distance of the ex- 
tremities of the bulk or existence of the same 
thing, as that it is a foot square, or lasted two 
years; the other shows the distance of it in place, 
or existence from other fixed points of space or 
duration, as that it was in the middle of Lin- 
coln's Inn Fields, or the first degree of Taurus, 
and in the year of our Lord 1671, or the xoooth 
year of the Julian period. All which distances we 
measure by preconceived ideas of certain lengths 
of space and duration, as inches, feet, miles, 
and degrees, and in the other, minutes, days, 
and years, &c. 

9. All the parts of extension are extension, and all 
the parts of duration are duration. There is one thing 
more wherein space and duration have a great 
conformity, and that is, though they are justly 
reckoned amongst our simple ideas, yet none of 
the distinct ideas we have of either is without all 
manner of composition: it is the very nature of 
both of them to consist of parts: but their parts 
being all of the same kind, and without the mix- 
ture of any other idea, hinder them not from 



having a place amongst simple ideas. Gould the 
mind, as in number, come to so small a part of 
extension or duration as excluded divisibility, 
that would be, as it were, the indivisible unit or 
idea; by repetition of which, it would make its 
more enlarged ideas of extension and duration. 
But, since the mind is not able to frame an idea 
of any space without parts, instead thereof it 
makes use of the common measures, which, by 
familiar use in each country, have imprinted 
themselves on the memory (as inches and feet; 
or cubits and parasangs; and so seconds, min- 
utes, hours, days, and years in duration); the 
mind makes use, I say, of such ideas as these, as 
simple ones: and these are the component parts 
of larger ideas, which the mind upon occasion 
makes by the addition of such known lengths 
which it is acquainted with. On the other side, 
the ordinary smallest measure we have of either 
is looked on as an unit in number, when the 
mind by division would reduce them into less 
fractions. Though on both sides, both in addi- 
tion and division, either of space or duration, 
when the idea under consideration becomes very 
big or very small its precise bulk becomes very 
obscure and confused; and it is the number of its 
repeated additions or divisions that alone re- 
mains clear and distinct; as will easily appear to 
any one who will let his thoughts loose in the 
vast expansion of space, or divisibility of matter. 
Every part of duration is duration too; and ev- 
ery part of extension is extension, both of them 
capable of addition or division in infinitum. But 
the least portions of either of them, whereof we have 
clear and distinct ideas, may perhaps be fittest to 
be considered by us, as the simple ideas of that 
kind out of which our complex modes of space, 
extension, and duration are made up, and into 
which they can again be distinctly resolved. Such 
a small part in duration may be called a moment, 
and is the time of one idea in our minds, in the 
train of their ordinary succession there. The oth- 
er, wanting a proper name, I know not whether 
I may be allowed to call a sensible point, meaning 
thereby the least particle of matter or space we 
can discern, which is ordinarily about a minute, 
and to the sharpest eyes seldom less than thirty 
seconds of a circle, whereof the eye is the centre. 
10. Their parts inseparable. Expansion and du- 
ration have this further agreement, that, though 
they are both considered by us as having parts, 
yet their parts are not separable one from anoth- 
er, no not even in thought: though the parts of 
bodies from whence we take our measure of the 
one; and the parts of motion, or rather the suc- 
cession of ideas in our minds, from whence we 



CHAP. XVI 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



take the measure of the other, may be interrupted 
and separated; as the one is often by rest, and 
the other is by sleep, which we call rest too. 

1 1 . Duration is as a line, expansion as a solid. But 
there is this manifest difference between them, 
That the ideas of length which we have of ex- 
pansion are turned every way, and so make fig- 
ure, and breadth, and thickness; but duration is 
but as it were the length of one straight line, ex- 
tended in infaitum, not capable of multiplicity, 
variation, or figure; but is one common measure 
of all existence whatsoever, wherein all things, 
whilst they exist, equally partake. For this pres- 
ent moment is common to all things that are now 
in being, and equally comprehends that part of 
their existence, as much as if they were all but 
one single being; and we may truly say, they all 
exist in the same moment of time. Whether an- 
gels and spirits have any analogy to this, in re- 
spect to expansion, is beyond my comprehen- 
sion: and perhaps for us, who have understand- 
ings and comprehensions suited to our own pres- 
ervation, and the ends of our own being, but not 
to the reality and extent of all other beings, it is 
near as hard to conceive any existence, or to 
have an idea of any real being, with a perfect 
negation of all manner of expansion, as it is to 
have the idea of any real existence with a perfect 
negation of all manner of duration. And there- 
fore, what spirits have to do with space, or how 
they communicate in it, we know not. All that 
we know is, that bodies do each singly possess its 
proper portion of it, according to the extent of 
solid parts; and thereby exclude all other bodies 
from having any share in that particular portion 
of space, whilst it remains there. 

12. Duration has never two parts together, expan- 
sion altogether. Duration, and time which is a part 
of it, is the idea we have of perishing distance, of 
which no two parts exist together, but follow 
each other in successsion; an expansion is the idea 
of lasting distance, all whose parts exist together, 
and are not capable of succession. And there- 
fore, though we cannot conceive any duration 
without succession, nor can put it together in 
our thoughts that any being does now exist to- 
morrow, or possess at once more than the pres- 
ent moment of duration; yet we can conceive the 
eternal duration of the Almighty far different 
from that of man, or any other finite being. Be- 
cause man comprehends not in his knowledge or 
power all past and future things: his thoughts 
are but of yesterday, and he knows not what to- 
morrow will bring forth. What is once past he 
can never recall; and what is yet to come he can- 
not make present What I say of man, I say of 



1 6 5 

all finite beings; who, though they may far ex- 
ceed man in knowledge and power, yet are no 
more than the meanest creature, in comparison 
with God himself. Finite or any magnitude holds 
not any proportion to infinite. God's infinite du- 
ration, being accompanied with infinite knowl- 
edge and infinite power, He sees all things, past 
and to come; and they are no more distant from 
His knowledge, no further removed from His 
sight, than the present: they all lie under the same 
view: and there is nothingwhich He cannot make 
exist each moment He pleases. For the existence 
of all things, depending upon His good pleasure, 
all things exist every moment that He thinks fit 
to have them exist. To conclude: expansion and 
duration do mutually embrace and comprehend 
each other; every part of space being in every 
part of duration, and every part of duration in 
every part of expansion. Such a combination of 
two distinct ideas is, I suppose, scarce to be 
found in all that great variety we do or can con- 
ceive, and may afford matter to further specula- 
tion. 

Chap. XVI. Idea of Number 

1. Number the simplest and most universal idea. 
Amongst all the ideas we have, as there is none 
suggested to the mind by more ways, so there is 
none more simple, than that of unity, or one: it 
has no shadow of variety or composition in it: ev- 
ery object our senses are employed about; every 
idea in our understandings; every thought of our 
minds, brings this idea along with it. And there- 
fore it is the most intimate to our thoughts, as 
well as it is, in its agreement to all other things, 
the most universal idea we have. For number applies 
itself to men, angels, actions, thoughts; every- 
thing that either doth exist, or can be imagined. 1 

2. Its modes made by addition, By repeating this 
idea in our minds, and adding the repetitions 
together, we come by the complex ideas of the 
modes of it. Thus, by adding one to one, we have 
the complex idea of a couple; by putting twelve 
units together, we have the complex idea of a 
dozen; and so of a score, or a million, or any 
other number. 2 

3. Each mode distinct. The simple modes of num- 
ber are of all other the most distinct; every the 
least variation, which is an unit, making each 
combination as clearly different from that which 
approacheth nearest to it, as the most remote; 
two being as distinct from one, as two hundred; 
and the idea of two as distinct from the idea of 
three, as the magnitude of the whole earth is 

*Cf. ch. vii. 7. 
*<X 8; ch. xvii. 9. 



X 66 JOHN LOCKE 

from that of a mite. This is not so in other simple 



modes, in which it is not so easy, nor perhaps 
possible for us to distinguish betwixt two ap- 
proaching ideas, which yet are really different. 
For who will undertake to find a difference be- 
tween the white of this paper and that of the 
next degree to it: or can form distinct ideas of 
every the least excess in extension? 

4. Therefore demonstrations in numbers the most 
precise. The clearness and distinctness of each 
mode of number from all others, even those that 
approach nearest, makes me apt to think that 
demonstrations in numbers, if they are not more 
evident and exact than in extension, yet they 
are more general in their use, and more deter- 
minate in their application. Because the ideas 
of numbers are more precise and distinguish- 
able than in extension; where every equality 
and excess are not so easy to be observed or 
measured; because our thoughts cannot in space 
arrive at any determined smallness beyond which 
it cannot go, as an unit; and therefore the 
quantity or proportion of any the least excess 
cannot be discovered; which is clear otherwise 
in number, where, as has been said, 91 is as dis- 
tinguishable from 90 as from 9000, though 91 
be the next immediate excess to 90. But it is not 
so in extension, where, whatsoever is more than 
just a foot or an inch, is not distinguishable from 
the standard of a foot or an inch; and in lines 
which appear of an equal length, one may be 
longer than the other by innumerable parts: 
lor can any one assign an angle, which shall be 
die next biggest to a right one. 

5. Names necsssary to numbers. By the repeating, 
as has been said, the idea of an unit, and joining 
it to another unit, we make thereof one collec- 
tive idea, marked by the name two. And who- 
soever can do this, and proceed on, still adding 
one more to the last collective idea which he 
had of any number, and gave a name to it, may 
count, or have ideas, for several collections of 
units, distinguished one from another, as far as 
he hath a series of names for following numbers, 
and a memory to retain that series, with their 
several names: all numeration being but still 
the adding of one unit more, and giving to the 
whole together, as comprehended in one idea, a 
new or distinct name or sign, whereby to know 
it from those before and after, and distinguish it 
from every smaller or greater multitude of units. 
So that he that can add one to one, and so to 
two, and so go on with his tale, taking still with 
him the distinct names belonging to every pro- 
gression; and so again, by subtracting an unit 
from each collection a retreat and lessen them, is 



BOOK II 

capable of all the ideas of numbers within the 
compass of his language, or for which he hath 
names, though not perhaps of more. For, the 
several simple modes of numbers being in our 
minds but so many conbinations of units, which 
have no variety, nor are capable of any other 
difference but more or less, names or marks for 
each distinct combination seem more necessary 
than in any other sort of ideas. For, without such 
names or marks, we can hardly well make use 
of numbers in reckoning, especially where the 
combination is made up of any great multitude 
of units; which put together, without a name or 
mark to distinguish that precise collection, will 
hardly be kept from being a heap in confusion. 
6. Another reason for the necessity of names to num- 
bers. This I think to be the reason why some 
Americans I have spoken with, (who were other- 
wise of quick and rational parts enough,) could 
not, as we do, by any means count to 1000; nor 
had any distinct idea of that number, though 
they could reckon very well to 20. Because their 
language being scanty, and accommodated only 
to the few necessaries of a needy, simple life, un- 
acquainted either with trade or mathematics, 
had no words in it to stand for 1000; so that 
when they were discoursed with of those greater 
numbers, they would show the hairs of their 
head, to express a great multitude, which they 
could not number; which inability, I suppose, 
proceeded from their want of names. The Tou- 
oupinambos had no names for numbers above 5; 
any number beyond that they made out by 
showing their ringers, and the fingers of others 
who were present. 1 And I doubt not but we our- 
selves might distinctly number in words a great , 
deal further than we usually do, would we find 
out but some fit denominations to signify them 
by; whereas, in the way we take now to name 
them, by millions of millions of millions, &c., it 
is hard to go beyond eighteen, or at most, four 
and twenty, decimal progressions, without con- 
fusion. But to show how much distinct names 
conduce to our well reckoning, or having useful 
ideas of numbers, let us see all these following 
figures in one continued line, as the marks of 
one number: v. g. 

Nonil- Octil- Septil- Sextil- Quin- 
lions lions lions lions trillions 

857324 162486 34589 6 4379'8 423147 



Quartril- Tril- 
lions lions Billions Millions Units 

248106 235421 261734 368149 623137 

l Histoire (Tun Voyage,, fait en la Terr* du BresU, 
par Jean de Lery, chap. xx. pp. 307-382. 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP. XVII 

The ordinary way of naming this number in 
English, will be the often repeating of millions, 
of millions, of millions, of millions, of millions, 
of millions, of millions, of millions, (which is the 
denomination of the second six figures). In which 
way, it will be very hard to have any distin- 
guishing notions of this number. But whether, 
by giving every six figures a new and orderly 
denomination, these, and perhaps a great many 
more figures in progression, might not easily be 
counted distinctly, and ideas of them both got 
more easily to ourselves, and more plainly sig- 
nified to others, I leave it to be considered. This 
I mention only to show how necessary distinct 
names are to numbering, without pretending to 
introduce new ones of my invention. 

7. Why children number not earlier. Thus chil- 
dren, either for want of names to mark the sev- 
eral progressions of numbers, or not having yet 
the faculty to collect scattered ideas into com- 
plex ones, and range them in a regular order, 
and so retain them in their memories, as is nec- 
essary to reckoning, do not begin to number 
very early, nor proceed in it very far or steadily, 
till a good while after they are well furnished 
with good store of other ideas: and one may of- 
ten observe them discourse and reason pretty 
well, and have very clear conceptions of several 
other things, before they can tell twenty. And 
some, through the default of their memories, 
who cannot retain the several combinations of 
numbers, with their names, annexed in their 
distinct orders, and the dependence of so long a 
train of numeral progressions, and their relation 
one to another, are not able all their lifetime to 
reckon, or regularly go over any moderate series 
of numbers. For he that will count twenty, or 
have any idea of that number, must know that 
nineteen went before, with the distinct name or 
sign of every one of them, as they stand marked 
in their order; for wherever this fails, a gap is 
made, the chain breaks, and the progress in 
numbering can go no farther. So that to reckon 
right, it is required, (i) That the mind distin- 
guish carefully two ideas, which are different 
one from another only by the addition or sub- 
traction of one unit: (2) That it retain in memory 
the names or marks of the several combinations, 
from an unit to that number; and that not con- 
fusedly, and at random, but in that exact order 
that the numbers follow one another. In either 
of which, if it trips, the whole business of num- 
bering will be disturbed, and there will remain 
only the confused idea of multitude, but the 
ideas necessary to distinct numeration will not 
be attained to. 



8. Number measures all measwreables. This fur- 
ther is observable in number, that it is that which 
the mind makes use of in measuring all things 
that by us are measurable, which principally 
are expansion and duration-, and our idea of infin- 
ity, even when applied to those, seems to be 
nothing but the infinity of number. For what 
else are our ideas of Eternity and Immensity, 
but the repeated additions of certain ideas of 
imagined parts of duration and expansion, with 
the infinity of number; in which we can come to 
no end of addition? For such an inexhaustible 
stock, number (of all other our ideas) most clearly 
furnishes us with, as is obvious to every one. For 
let a man collect into one sum as great a number 
as he pleases, this multitude, how great soever, 
lessens not one jot the power of adding to it, or 
brings him any nearer the end of the inexhausti- 
ble stock of number; where still there remains as 
much to be added, as if none were taken out. 
And this endless addition or addibility (if any one 
like the word better) of numbers, so apparent to 
the mind, is that, I think, which gives us the 
clearest and most distinct idea of infinity: of 
which more in the following chapter. 

Chap. XVII. Of Infinity 

I. Infinity, in its original intention, attributed to 
space, duration, and number. He that would know 
what kind of idea it is to which we give the name 
of infinity, cannot do it better than by consider- 
ing to what infinity is by the mind more imme- 
diately attributed ; and then how the mind comes 
to frame it. 

Finite and infinite seem to me to be looked up- 
on by the mind as the modes of quantity,, and to be 
attributed primarily in their first designation on- 
ly to those things which have parts, and are cap- 
able of increase or diminution by the addition 
or subtraction of any the least part: and such 
are the ideas of space, duration, and number, 
which we have considered in the foregoing chap- 
ters. It is true, that we cannot but be assured, 
that the great God, of whom and from whom 
are all things, is incomprehensibly infinite: but 
yet, when we apply to that first and supreme 
Being our idea of infinite, in our weak and nar- 
row thoughts, we do it primarily in respect to 
his duration and ubiquity; and, I think, more 
figuratively to his power, wisdom, and goodness, 
and other attributes, which are properly inex- 
haustible and incomprehensible, &c. For, when 
we call them infinite, we have no other idea of 
this infinity but what carries with it some reflec- 
tion on, and imitation of, that number or extent 
of the acts or objects of God's power, wisdom, 



i68 



JOHN LOCKE 



and goodness, which can never be supposed so 
great, or so many, which these attributes will 
not always surmount and exceed, let us multi- 
ply them in our thoughts as far as we can, with 
all the infinity of endless number. I do not pre- 
tend to say how these attributes are in God, who 
is infinitely beyond the reach of our narrow ca- 
pacities: they do, without doubt, contain in them 
all possible perfection: but this, I say, is our way 
of conceiving them, and these our ideas of their 
infinity. 

2. The idea of finite easily got. Finite then, and 
infinite, being by the mind looked on as modifi- 
cations of expansion and duration, the next thing 
to be considered, is, How the mind comes by 
them. As for the idea of finite, there is no great 
difficulty. The obvious portions of extension that 
affect our senses, carry with them into the mind 
the idea of finite: and the ordinary periods of 
succession, whereby we measure time and dura- 
tion, as hours, days, and years, are bounded 
lengths. The difficulty is, how we come by those 
boundless ideas of eternity and immensity; since 
the objects we converse with come so much short 
of any approach or proportion to that largeness. 

3. How we come by the idea of infinity. Every one 
that has any idea of any stated lengths of space, 
as a foot, finds that he can repeat that idea; and 
joining it to the former, make the idea of two 
feet; and by the addition of a third, three feet; 
and so on, without ever coming to an end of his 
additions, whether of the same idea of a foot, or, 
if he pleases, of doubling it, or any other idea he 
has of any length, as a mile, or diameter of the 
earth, or of the orbis magnus: for whichever of 
these he takes, and how often soever he doubles, 
or any otherwise multiplies it, he finds, that, af- 
ter he has continued his doubling in his thoughts, 
and enlarged his idea as much as he pleases, he 
has no more reason to stop, nor is one jot nearer 
the end of such addition, than he was at first set- 
ting out: the power of enlarging his idea of space 
by further additions remaining still the same, he 
hence takes the idea of infinite space. 

4. Our idea of space boundless. This, I think, is 
the way whereby the mind gets the idea of in- 
finite space. It is a quite different consideration, 
to examine whether the mind has the idea of 
such a boundless space actually existing; since our 
ideas are not always proofs of the existence of 
things: but yet, since this comes here in our way, 
I suppose I may say, that we are apt to think that 
space in itself is actually boundless, to which im- 
agination the idea of space or expansion of itself 
naturally leads us. For, it being considered by 
us, either as tbe extension pf body, or as existing 



BOOK II 

by itself, \vithout any solid matter taking it up, 
(for of such a void space we have not only the 
idea, but I have proved, as I think, from the 
motion of body, its necessary existence), it is im- 
possible the mind should be ever able to find or 
suppose any end of it, or be stopped anywhere 
in its progress in this space, how far soever it ex- 
tends its thoughts. Any bounds made with body, 
even adamantine walls, are so far from putting 
a stop to the mind in its further progress in space 
and extension that it rather facilitates and en- 
larges it. For so far as that body reaches, so far 
no one can doubt of extension; and when we are 
come to the utmost extremity of body, what is 
there that can there put a stop, and satisfy the 
mind that it is at the end of space, when it per- 
ceives that it is not; nay, when it is satisfied that 
body itself can move into it? For, if it be neces- 
sary for the motion of body, that there should be 
an empty space, though ever so little, here 
amongst bodies; and if it be possible for body to 
move in or through that empty space; nay, it 
is impossible for any particle of matter to move 
but into an empty space; the same possibility of 
a body's moving into a void space, beyond the 
utmost bounds of body, as well as into a void 
space interspersed amongst bodies, will always 
remain clear and evident: the idea of empty pure 
space, whether within or beyond the confines of 
all bodies, being exactly the same, differing not 
in nature, though in bulk; and there being noth- 
ing to hinder body from moving into it. So that 
wherever the mind places itself by any thought, 
either amongst, or remote from all bodies, it 
can, in this uniform idea of space, nowhere find 
any bounds s any end; and so must necessarily 
conclude it, by the very nature and idea of each 
part of it, to be actually infinite, 

5. And so of duration. As, by the power we find 
in ourselves of repeating, as often as we will, any 
idea of space, we get the idea of immensity; so, by 
being able to repeat the idea of any length of 
duration we have in our minds s with all the end- 
less addition of number, we come by the idea of 
eternity. For we find in ourselves, we can no more 
come to an end of such repeated ideas than we 
can come to the end of number; which every 
one perceives he cannot. But here again it is an- 
other question, quite different from our having 
an idea of eternity, to know whether there were 
any real being, whose duration has been eternal. 
And as to this, I say, he that considers some- 
thing now existing, must necessarily come to 
Something eternal. But having spoke of this in 
another place, 1 I shall say here no more of it, 
iQf. Bk. IV.ckx. 3. 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP. XVII 

but proceed on to some other considerations of 
our idea of infinity. 

6. Why other ideas are not capable of infinity. If it 
be so, that our idea of infinity be got from the 
power we observe in ourselves of repeating, with- 
out end, our own ideas, it may be demanded, 
Why we do not attribute infinity to other ideas, 
as well as those of space and duration; since they 
may be as easily, and as often, repeated in our 
minds as the other: and yet nobody ever thinks 
of infinite sweetness, or infinite whiteness, though 
he can repeat the idea of sweet or white, as fre- 
quently as those of a yard or a day? To which I 
answer, All the ideas that are considered as 
having parts, and are capable of increase by the 
addition of any equal or less parts, afford us, by 
their repetition, the idea of infinity; because, 
with this endless repetition, there is continued 
an enlargement of which there can be no end. 
But in other ideas it is not so. For to the largest 
idea of extension or duration that I at present 
have, the addition of any the least part makes 
an increase; but to the perfectest idea I have of 
the whitest whiteness, if I add another of a less 
or equal whiteness, (and of a whiter than I have, 
I cannot add the idea), it makes no increase, 
and enlarges not my idea at all; and therefore 
the different ideas of whiteness, &c. are called 
degrees. For those ideas that consist of parts are 
capable of being augmented by every addition 
of the least part; but if you take the idea of white, 
which one parcel of snow yielded yesterday to 
our sight, and another idea of white from an- 
other parcel of snow you see to-day, and put 
them together in your mind, they embody, as it 
were, and run into one, and the idea of white- 
ness is not at all increased; and if we add a less 
degree of whiteness to a greater, we are so far 
from increasing, that we diminish it. Those ideas 
that consist not of parts cannot be augmented 
to what proportion men please, or be stretched 
beyond what they have received by their senses; 
but space, duration, and number, being capable 
of increase by repetition, leave in the mind an 
idea of endless room for more; nor can we con- 
ceive anywhere a stop to a further addition or 
progression: and so those ideas done lead our 
minds towards the thought of infinity. 

7. Difference between infinity of space? and space in- 
finite. Though our idea of infinity arise from the 
contemplation of quantity, and the endless in- 
crease the mind is able to make in quantity, by 
the repeated additions of what portions thereof 
it pleases; yet I guess we cause great confusion 
in our thoughts, when we join infinity to any 
supposed idea of quantity the mind can be 



169 



thought to have, and so discourse or reason 
about an infinite quantity, as an infinite space, or 
an infinite duration. For, as our idea of infinity 
being, as I think, an endless growing idea, but the 
idea of any quantity the mind has, being at that 
time terminated in that idea, (for be it as great as 
it will, it can be no greater than it is,) to join 
infinity to it, is to adjust a standing measure to 
a growing bulk; and therefore I think it is not 
an insignificant subtilty, if I say, that we are 
carefully to distinguish between the idea of the 
infinity of space, and the idea of a space infinite. 
The first is nothing but a supposed endless pro- 
gression of the mind, over what repeated ideas 
of space it pleases; but to have actually in the 
mind the idea of a space infinite, is to suppose 
the mind already passed over, and actually to 
have a view of all those repeated ideas of space 
which an endless repetition can never totally rep- 
resent to it; which carries in it a plain contra- 
diction. 

8. We have no idea of infinite space. This, per- 
haps, will be a little plainer, if we consider it in 
numbers. The infinity of numbers, to the end of 
whose addition every one perceives there is no 
approach, easily appears to any one that reflects 
on it. But, how clear soever this idea of the in- 
finity of number be, there is nothing yet more 
evident than the absurdity of the actual idea of 
an infinite number. Whatsoever positive ideas we 
have in our minds of any space, duration, or 
number, let them be ever so great, they are still 
finite; but when we suppose an inexhaustible re- 
mainder, from which we remove all bounds, and 
wherein we allow the mind an endless progres- 
sion of thought, without ever completing the 
idea, there we have our idea of infinity: which, 
though it seems to be pretty dear when we con- 
sider nothing else in it but the negation of an 
end, yet, when we would frame in our minds 
the idea of an infinite space or duration, that 
idea is very obscure and confused, because it is 
made up of two parts, very different, if not in- 
consistent For, let a man frame in his mind an 
idea of any space or number, as great as he will; 
it is plain the mind rests and terminates in that 
idea, which is contrary to the idea of infinity, 
which consists in a supposed endUss progression. And 
therefore I think it is that we are so easily con- 
founded, when we come to argue and reason 
about infinite space or duration, &C. 1 Because the 
parts of such an idea not being perceived to be, 
as they are, inconsistent, the one side or other al- 
ways perplexes, whatever consequences we draw 
from the other; as an idea of motion not passing 

1 G Hume, Ekqwty, sect xii 



i yo 

on would perplex any one who should argue 
from such an idea, which is not better than an 
idea of motion at rest. And such another seems 
to me to be the idea of a space, or (which is the 
same thing) a number infinite, i. e. of a space or 
number which the mind actually has, and so 
views and terminates in; and of a space or num- 
ber, which, in a constant and endless enlarging 
and progression, it can in thought never attain 
to. For, how large soever an idea of space I have 
in my mind, it is no larger than it is that instant 
that I have it, though I be capable the next in- 
stant to double it, and so on in infinitum', for that 
alone is infinite which has no bounds; and that 
the idea of infinity, in which our thoughts can 
find none. 

9. Number affords us the clearest idea of infinity. 
But of all other ideas, it is number, as I have 
said, which I think furnishes us with the clearest 
and most distinct idea of infinity we are capable 
of. For, even in space and duration, when the 
mind pursues the idea of infinity, it there makes 
use of the ideas and repetitions of numbers, as of 
millions and millions of miles, or years, which 
are so many distinct ideas, kept best by num- 
ber from running into a confused heap, wherein 
the mind loses itself; and when it has added to- 
gether as many millions, &c., as it pleases, of 
known lengths of space or duration, the clearest 
idea it can get of infinity, is the confused incom- 
prehensible remainder of endless addible num- 
bers, which affords no prospect of stop or boun- 
dary. 

10. Our different conceptions of the infinity of num- 
ber contrasted with those of duration and expansion. It 
will, perhaps, give us a little further light into 
the idea we have of infinity, and discover to us, 
that it is nothing but the infinity of number applied to 
determinate parts, of which we have in our minds the 
distinct ideas, if we consider that number is not 
generally thought by us infinite, whereas dura- 
tion and extension are apt to be so; which arises 
from hence, that in number we are at one end, 
as it were: for there being in number nothing 
less than an unit, we there stop, and are at an 
end; but in addition, or increase of number, we 
can set no bounds: and so it is like a line, where- 
of one end terminating with us, the other is ex- 
tended still forwards, beyond all that we can 
conceive. But in space and duration it is other- 
wise. For in duration we consider it as if this line 
of number were extended both ways to an un- 
conceivable, undeterminate, and infinite length; 
which is evident to any one that will but reflect 
on what consideration he hath of Eternity ; which, 
I suppose, will find to be nothing else but the 



JOHN LOCKE 



BOOK II 

turning this infinity of number both ways, a parte 
ante, and a parte post, as they speak. For, when 
we would consider eternity, a parte ante, what do 
we but, beginning from ourselves and the pres- 
ent time we are in, repeat in our minds the ideas 
of years 3 or ages, or any other assignable portion 
of duration past, with a prospect of proceeding 
in such addition with all the infinity of number: 
and when we would consider eternity, a parte 
post, we just after the same rate begin from our- 
selves, and reckon by multiplied periods yet to 
come, still extending that line of number as be- 
fore. And these two being put together, are that 
infinite duration we call Eternity: which, as we 
turn our view either way, forwards or backwards, 
appears infinite, because we still turn that way 
the infinite end of number, i. e. the power still 
of adding more. 

1 1 . How we conceive the infinity of space. The same 
happens also in space, wherein, conceiving our- 
selves to be, as it were, in the centre, we do on 
all sides pursue those indeterminable lines of 
number; and reckoning any way from ourselves, 
a yard, mile, diameter of the earth, or orbis mag- 
nus, by the infinity of number, we add others 
to them, as often as we will. And having no more 
reason to set bounds to those repeated ideas than 
we have to set bounds to number, we have that 
indeterminable idea of immensity. 

12. Infinite divisibility. And since in any bulk of 
matter our thoughts can never arrive at the ut- 
most divisibility, therefore there is an apparent 
infinity to us also in that, which has the infinity 
also of number; but with this difference, that, 
in the former considerations of the infinity of 
space and duration, we only use addition of num- 
bers; whereas this is like the division of an unit 
into its fractions, wherein the mind also can pro- 
ceed in infinitum, as well as in the former addi- 
tions; it being indeed but the addition still of 
new numbers: though in the addition of the one, 
we can have no more the positive idea of a space 
infinitely great, than, in the division of the oth- 
er, we can have the [positive] idea of a body in- 
finitely little; our idea of infinity being, as I 
may say, a growing or fugitive idea, still in a 
boundless progression, that can stop nowhere. 

13. JVb positive idea of infinity. Though it be 
hard, I think, to find anyone so absurd as to say 
he has the positive idea of an actual infinite num- 
ber; the infinity whereof lies only in a power 
still of adding any combination of units to any 
former number, and that as long and as much 
as one will; the like also being in the infinity of 
space and duration, which power leaves always 
to the mind room for endless additions; yet 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP, xvn 

there be those who imagine they have positive 
ideas of infinite duration and space. It would, I 
think, be enough to destroy any such positive 
idea of infinite, to ask him that has it, whether 
he could add to it or no; which would easily 
show the mistake of such a positive idea. We 
can, I think, have no positive idea of any space 
or duration which is not made up of, and com- 
mensurate to, repeated numbers of feet or yards, 
or days and years; which are the common meas- 
ures, whereof we have the ideas in our minds, 
and whereby we judge of the greatness of this 
sort of quantities. And therefore, since an infin- 
ite idea of space or duration must needs be made 
up of infinite parts, it can have no other infinity 
than that of number capable still of further addi- 
tion; but not an actual positive idea of a num- 
ber infinite. For, I think it is evident, that the 
addition of finite things together (as are all lengths 
whereof we have the positive ideas) can never 
otherwise produce the idea of infinite than as 
number does; which, consisting of additions of 
finite units one to another, suggests 1 the idea of 
infinite, only by a power we find we have of still 
increasing the sum, and adding more of the same 
kind; without coming one jot nearer the end of 
such progression. 

14. How we cannot have a positive idea of infinity in 
quantity. They who would prove their idea of in- 
finite to be positive, seem to me to do it by a 
pleasant argument, taken from the negation of 
an end; which being negative, the negation of it 
is positive. He that considers that the end is, in 
body, but the extremity or superficies of that 
body, will not perhaps be forward to grant that 
the end is a bare negative: and he that perceives 
the end of his pen is black or white, will be apt 
to think that the end is something more than a 
pure negation. Nor is it, when applied to dura- 
tion, the bare negation of existence, but more 
properly the last moment of it. But if they will 
have the end to be nothing but the bare nega- 
tion of existence, I am sure they cannot deny 
but the beginning is the first instant of being, 
and is not by any body conceived to be a bare 
negation; and therefore, by their own argu- 
ment, the idea of eternal, 4 parts ante, or of a 
duration without a beginning, is but a negative 
idea. 

15. What is positive, what negative, in our idea of 
infinite. The idea of infinite has, I confess, some- 
thing of positive in all those things we apply to 
it. When we would think of infinite space or 
duration, we at first step usually make some very 
large idea, as perhaps of millions of ages, or 

l (X Bacon, Novum Organum, Bk. L 48. 



171 



miles, which possibly we double and multiply 
several times. All that we thus amass together in 
our thoughts is positive, and the assemblage of a 
great number of positive ideas of space or dura- 
tion. But what still remains beyond this we have 
no more a positive distinct notion of than a mar- 
iner has of the depth of the sea; where, having 
let down a large portion of his sounding-line, he 
reaches no bottom. Whereby he knows the depth 
to be so many fathoms, and more; but how much 
the more is, he hath no distinct notion at all: 
and could he always supply new line, and find 
the plummet always sink, without ever stopping, 
he would be something in the posture of the 
mind reaching after a complete and positive idea 
of infinity. In which case, let this line be ten, or 
ten thousand fathoms long, it equally discovers 
what is beyond it, and gives only this confused 
and comparative idea, that this is not all, but 
one may yet go farther. So much as the mind 
comprehends of any space, it has a positive idea 
of: but in endeavouring to make it infinite, it 
being always enlarging, always advancing, 
the idea is still imperfect and incomplete. So 
much space as the mind takes a view of in its 
contemplation of greatness, is a clear picture, 
and positive in the understanding: but infinite 
is still greater, i . Then the idea of so much is pos- 
itive and clear. 2. The idea of greater is also clear; 
but it is but a comparative idea, the idea of so 
much greater as cannot be comprehended. 3. And this 
is plainly negative: not positive. For he has no 
positive clear idea of the largeness of any exten- 
sion, (which is that sought for in the idea of in- 
finite), that has not a comprehensive idea of the 
dimensions of it: and such, nobody, I think, pre- 
tends to in what is infinite. For to say a man has 
a positive clear idea of any quantity, without 
knowing how great it is, is as reasonable as to 
say, he has the positive clear idea of the number 
of the sands on the sea-shore, who knows not 
how many there be, but only that they are more 
than twenty. For just such a perfect and positive 
idea has he of an infinite space or duration, who 
says it is larger than the extent or duration of ten, 
one hundred, one thousand, or any other num- 
ber of miles, or years, whereof he has or can 
have a positive idea; which is all the idea, I 
think, we have of infinite. So that what lies be- 
yond our positive idea towards infinity, lies in 
obscurity, and has the indeterminate confusion 
of a negative idea, wherein I know I neither do 
nor can comprehend all I would, it being too 
large for a finite and narrow capacity. And that 
cannot but be very far from a positive complete 
idea, wherein the greatest part of what I would 



172 



JOHN LOCKE 



comprehend is left out, under the undetermin- 
ate intimation of being still greater. For to say, 
that, having in any quantity measured so much, 
or gone so far, you are not yet at the end, is only 
to say that that quantity is greater. So that the 
negation of an end in any quantity is, in other 
\vords, only to say that it is bigger; and a total 
negation of an end is but carrying this bigger 
still with you, in all the progressions your thou ghts 
shall make in quantity; and adding this idea of 
still greater to all the ideas you have, or can be 
supposed to have, of quantity. Now, whether 
such an idea as that be positive, I leave any one 
to consider. 

1 6. We have no positive idea of an infinite duration. 
I ask those who say they have a positive idea of 
eternity, whether their idea of duration includes 
in it succession, or not? If it does not, they ought 
to show the difference of their notion of dura- 
tion, when applied to an eternal Being, and to a 
finite; since 3 perhaps, there may be others as 
well as I, who will own to them their weakness 
of understanding in this point, and acknowledge 
that the notion they have of duration forces 
them to conceive, that whatever has duration, 
is of a longer continuance to-day than it was 
yesterday. If, to avoid succession in external ex- 
istence, they return to the punctum stans of the 
schools, I suppose they will thereby very little 
mend the matter, or help us to a more clear and 
positive idea of infinite duration; there being 
nothing more inconceivable to me than dura- 
tion without succession. Besides, that punctum 
stansi if it signify anything, being not quantum, 
finite or infinite cannot belong to it. But, if our 
weak apprehensions cannot separate succession 
from any duration whatsoever, our idea of eter- 
nity can be nothing but of infinite succession of mo- 
ments of duration wherein anything does exist; and 
whether any one has, or can have,, a positive 
idea of an actual infinite number, I leave him 
to consider, till his infinite number be so great 
that he himself can add no more to it; and as 
long as he can increase it, I doubt he himself 
will think the idea he hath of it a little too scanty 
for positive infinity, 

1 7. No complete idea of eternal being. I think it 
unavoidable for every considering, rational crea- 
ture, that will but examine his own or any other 
existence, to have the notion of an eternal, wise 
Being, who had no beginning: and such an idea 
of infinite duration I am sure I have. But this 
negation of a beginning, being but the negation 
of a positive thing, scarce gives me a positive 
idea of infinity; which, whenever I endeavour 
to extend my thoughts to, I confess myself at a 



BOOK II 

loss, and I find I cannot attain any clear com- 
prehension of it. 

1 8. No positive idea of infinite space. He that thinks 
he has a positive idea of infinite space, will, when 
he considers it, find that he can no more have a 
positive idea of the greatest, than he has of the 
least space. For in this latter, which seems the 
easier of the two, and more within our compre- 
hension, we are capable only of a comparative 
idea of smallness, which will always be less than 
any one whereof we have the positive idea. All 
our positive ideas of any quantity, whether great 
or little, have always bounds, though our com- 
parative idea, whereby we can always add to the 
one, and take from the other, hath no bounds. 
For that which remains, either great or little, 
not being comprehended in that positive idea 
which we have, lies in obscurity; and we have 
no other idea of it, but of the power of enlarg- 
ing the one and diminishing the other, without 
ceasing. A pestle and mortar will as soon bring 
any particle of matter to indivisibility, as the 
acutest thought of a mathematician; and a sur- 
veyor may as soon with his chain measure out 
infinite space, as a philosopher by the quickest 
flight of mind reach it, or by thinking compre- 
hend it; which is to have a positive idea of it. He 
that thinks on a cube of an inch diameter, has a 
clear and positive idea of it in his mind, and so 
can frame one of >, }4, j^, and so on, till he 
has the idea in his thoughts of something very 
little; but yet reaches not the idea of that incom- 
prehensible littleness which division can produce. 
What remains of smallness is as far from his 
thoughts as when he first began; and therefore 
he never conies at all to have a clear and posi- 
tive idea of that smallness which is consequent 
to infinite divisibility. 

19. What is positive, what negative, in our idea of 
infinite, Every one that looks towards infinity 
does, as I have said, at first glance make some 
very large idea of that which he applies it to, let 
it be space or duration; and possibly he wearies 
his thoughts, by multiplying in his mind that 
first large idea: but yet by that he comes no 
nearer to the having a positive clear idea of what 
remains to make up a positive infinite, than the 
country fellow had of the water which was yet 
to come, and pass the channel of the river where 
he stood: 

Rusticus expectat dum defluat amnis^ at ille 
Labitur 9 et labetur in omne volubilis avion, 

20. Some think thej have a positive idea of eternity ', 
and not of infinite space. There are some I have 
met that put so much difference between ini> 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP. XVII 

nite duration and infinite space, that they per- 
suade themselves that they have a positive idea 
of eternity, but that they have not, nor can have 
any idea of infinite space. The reason of which 
mistake I suppose to be this that finding, by a 
due contemplation of causes and effects, that it 
is necessary to admit some Eternal Being, and 
so to consider the real existence of that Being as 
taken up and commensurate to their idea of eter- 
nity; but, on the other side, not rinding it nec- 
essary, but, on the contrary, apparently absurd, 
that body should be infinite, they forwardly con- 
clude that they can have no idea of infinite space, 
because they can have no idea of infinite mat- 
ter. 1 Which consequence, I conceive, is very ill 
collected, because the existence of matter is no 
ways necessary to the existence of space, no more 
than the existence of motion, or the sun, is nec- 
essary to duration, though duration used to be 
measured by it. And I doubt not but that a man 
may have the idea of ten thousand miles square, 
without any body so big, as well as the idea of 
ten thousand years, without any body so old. It 
seems as easy to me to have the idea of space 
empty of body, as to think of the capacity of a 
bushel without corn, or the hollow of a nut-shell 
\vithout a kernel in it: it being no more neces- 
sary that there should be existing a solid body, 
infinitely extended, because we have an idea of 
the infinity of space, than it is necessary that the 
world should be eternal, because we have an idea 
of infinite duration. And why should we think 
our idea of infinite space requires the real exist- 
ence of matter to support it, when we find that 
we have as clear an idea of an infinite duration 
to come, as we have of infinite duration past? 
Though I suppose nobody thinks it conceivable 
that anything does or has existed in that future 
duration. Nor is it possible to join our idea of 
future duration with present or past existence, 
any more than it is possible to make the ideas of 
yesterday, to-day, and to-morrow to be the same; 
or bring ages past and future together, and make 
them contemporary. But if these men are of the 
mind, that they have dearer ideas of infinite 
duration than of infinite space, because it is past 
doubt that God has existed from all eternity, 
but there is no real matter co-extended with in- 
finite space; yet those philosophers who are of 
opinion that infinite space is possessed by God's 
infinite omnipresence, as well as infinite dura- 
tion by his eternal existence, must be allowed to 
have as clear an idea of infinite space as of in- 
finite duration; though neither of them, I think, 
has any positive idea of infinity in either case. 



For whatsoever positive ideas a man has in his 
mind of any quantity, he can repeat it, and add 
it to the former, as easy as he can add together 
the ideas of two days, or two paces, which are 
positive ideas of lengths he has in his mind, and 
so on as long as he pleases: whereby, if a man 
had a positive idea of infinite, either duration or 
space, he could add two infinities together; nay, 
make one infinite infinitely bigger than another 
absurdities too gross to be confuted. 

21. Supposed positive ideas of infinity ? cause of mis- 
takes. But yet if after all this, there be men who 
persuade themselves that they have clear posi- 
tive comprehensive ideas of infinity, it is fit they 
enjoy their privilege: and I should be very glad 
(with some others that I know, who acknowl- 
edge they have none such) to be better informed 
by their communication. For I have been hith- 
erto apt to think that the great and inextricable 
difficulties which perpetually involve all dis- 
courses concerning infinity, whether of space, 
duration, or divisibility, have been the certain 
marks of a defect in our ideas of infinity, and 
the disproportion the nature thereof has to the 
comprehension of our narrow capacities. For, 
whilst men talk and dispute of infinite space or 
duration, as if they had as complete and positive 
ideas of them as they have of the names they use 
for them, or as they have of a yard, or an hour, 
or any other determinate quantity; it is no 
wonder if the incomprehensible nature of the 
thing they discourse of, or reason about, leads 
them into perplexities and contradictions, and 
their minds be overlaid by an object too large 
and mighty to be surveyed and managed by 
them. 

22. All these off modes of ideas got from sensation 
and reflection. If I have dwelt pretty long on the 
consideration of duration, space, and number, 
and what arises from the contemplation of them, 
Infinity, it is possibly no more than the mat- 
ter requires; there being few simple ideas whose 
modes give more exercise to the thoughts of men 
than those do. I pretend not to treat of them in 
their full latitude. It suffices to my design to 
show how the mind receives them, such as. tbey 
are, from sensation and reflection; and how even 
the idea we have of infinity, how remote soever 
it may seem to be from any object of sense, or 
operation of our mind, has, nevertheless, as all 
our other ideas, its original there. Some math- 
ematicians perhaps, of advanced speculations, 
may have other ways to introduce into their 
minds ideas of infinity. But this hinders not but 
that they themselves, as well as all other men, 
got the first ideas which they had of infinity 



174 



JOHN LOCKE 



from sensation and reflection, in the method we 
have here set down. 

Chap. XVIII. Other Simple Modes 

1. Other simple modes of simple ideas of sensation. 
Though I have, in the foregoing chapters, shown 
how, from simple ideas taken in by sensation, 
the mind comes to extend itself even to infinity; 
which, however it may of all others seem most 
remote from any sensible perception, yet at last 
hath nothing in it but what is made out of sim- 
ple ideas: received into the mind by the senses, 
and afterwards there put together, by the faculty 
the mind has to repeat its own ideas; Though, 
I say, these might be instances enough of simple 
modes of the simple ideas of sensation, and suf- 
fice to show how the mind comes by them, yet I 
shall, for method's sake, though briefly, give an 
account of some few more, and then proceed to 
more complex ideas. 

2. Simple modes of motion. To slide, roll, tumble, 
walk, creep, run, dance, leap, skip, and abun- 
dance of others that might be named, are words 
which are no sooner heard but every one who 
understands English has presently in his mind 
distinct ideas, which are all but the different 
modifications of motion. Modes of motion an- 
swer those of extension; swift and slow are two 
different ideas of motion, the measures whereof 
are made of the distances of time and space put 
together; so they are complex ideas, comprehend- 
ing time and space with motion. 

3. Modes of sounds. The like variety have we in 
sounds. Every articulate word is a different mod- 
ification of sound; by which we see that, from 
the sense of hearing, by such modifications, the 
mind may be furnished with distinct ideas, to 
almost an infinite number. Sounds also, besides 
the distinct cries of birds and beasts, are modi- 
fied by diversity of notes of different length put 
together, which make that complex idea called 
a tune, which a musician may have in his mind 
when he hears or makes no sound at all, by re- 
flecting on the ideas of those sounds, so put to- 
gether silently in his own fancy. 

4. Modes of colours. Those of colours are also 
very various: some we take notice of as the dif- 
ferent degrees, or as they were termed shades, of 
the same colour. But since we very seldom make 
assemblages of colours, either for use or delight, 
but figure is taken in also, and has its part in it, 
as in painting, weaving, needleworks, &c.; 
those which are taken notice of do most com- 
monly belong to mixed modes> as being made up 
of ideas of divers kinds, viz. figure and colour, 
such as beauty, rainbow, &c. 



BOOK II 

5. Modes of tastes. All compounded tastes and 
smells are also modes, made up of the simple 
ideas of those senses. But they, being such as 
generally we have no names for, are less taken 
notice of, and cannot be set down in writing; 
and therefore must be left without enumeration 
to the thoughts and experience of my reader. 

6. Some simple modes have no names. In general it 
may be observed, that those simple modes which 
are considered but as different degrees of the same 
simple idea, though they are in themselves many 
of them very distinct ideas, yet have ordinarily 
no distinct names, nor are much taken notice of, 
as distinct ideas, where the difference is but very 
small between them. Whether men have neg- 
lected these modes, and given no names to them, 
as wanting measures nicely to distinguish them; 
or because, when they were so distinguished, 
that knowledge would not be of general or nec- 
essary use, I leave it to the thoughts of others. It 
is sufficient to my purpose to show, that all our 
simple ideas come to our minds only by sensa- 
tion and reflection; and that when the mind has 
them, it can variously repeat and compound 
them, and so make new complex ideas. But, 
though white, red, or sweet, &c. have not been 
modified, or made into complex ideas, by sever- 
al combinations, so as to be named, and thereby 
ranked into species; yet some others of the sim- 
ple ideas, viz. those of unity, duration, and mo- 
tion, &c., above instanced in, as also power and 
thinking, have been thus modified to a great va- 
riety of complex ideas, with names belonging to 
them. 

7. Why some modes have, and others have not, names. 
The reason whereof, I suppose, has been this, 
That the great concernment of men being with 
men one amongst another, the knowledge of men, 
and their actions, and the signifying of them to 
one another, was most necessary; and therefore 
they made ideas of actions very nicely modified, 
and gave those complex ideas names, that they 
might the more easily record and discourse of 
those things they were daily conversant in, with- 
out long ambages and circumlocutions; and that 
the things they were continually to give and re- 
ceive information about might be the easier and 
quicker understood. That this is so, and that 
men in framing different complex ideas, and giv- 
ing them names, have been much governed by the 
end of speech in general, (which is a very short 
and expedite way of conveying their thoughts 
one to another), is evident in the names which 
in several arts have been found out, and applied 
to several complex ideas of modified actions, be- 
longing to their several trades, for dispatch sake, 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP. XIX 

in their direction or discourses about them. Which 
ideas are not generally framed in the minds of 
men not conversant about these operations. And 
thence the words that stand for them, by the 
greatest part of men of the same language, are 
not understood: v.g. coltshire, drilling, filtration, co- 
hobation, are words standing for certain complex 
ideas, which being seldom in the minds of any 
but those few whose particular employments do 
at every turn suggest them to their thoughts, 
those names of them are not generally under- 
stood but by smiths and chymists; who, having 
framed the complex ideas which these words 
stand for, and having given names to them, or 
received them from others, upon hearing of these 
names hi communication, readily conceive those 
ideas in their minds; as by cohobation all the 
simple ideas of distilling, and the pouring the 
liquor distilled from anything back upon the re- 
maining matter, and distilling it again. Thus we 
see that there are great varieties of simple ideas, 
as of tastes and smells, which have no names; 
and of modes many more; which either not hav- 
ing been generally enough observed, or else not 
being of any great use to be taken notice of in 
the affairs and converse of men, they have not 
had names given to them, and so pass not for 
species. 1 This we shall have occasion hereafter to 
consider more at large, when we come to speak 
of words.* 

Chap, XIX. Of the Modes of Thinking 

i. Sensation, remembrance, contemplation, &c. 9 
modes of thinking. When the mind turns its view 
inwards upon itself, and contemplates its own 
actions, thinking is the first that occurs. In it the 
mind observes a great variety of modifications, 
and from thence receives distinct ideas. Thus 
the perception or thought which actually accom- 
panies, and is annexed to, any impression on the 
body, made by an external object, being dis- 
tinct from all other modifications of thinking, 
furnishes the mind with a distinct idea, which 
we call sensation; which is, as it were, the ac- 
tual entrance of any idea into the understand- 
ing by the senses. 3 The same idea, when it again 
recurs without the operation of the like object 
on the external sensory, is remembrance: if it be 
sought after by the mind, and with pain and en- 
deavour found, and brought again in view, it is 
recollection: if it be held there long under atten- 
tive consideration, it is contemplation: when ideas 
float in our mind, without any reflection or re- 

iSeeBk. HI. 

2 In Bk. III. chh. v, vi 

*C ch. L 23. 



175 



gard of the understanding, it is that which the 
French call reverie; our language has scarce a 
name for it: when the ideas that offer themselves 
(for, as I have observed in another place, whilst 
we are awake, there will always be a train of 
ideas succeeding one another in our minds) are 
taken notice of, and, as it were, registered in the 
memory, it is attention: when the mind with great 
earnestness, and of choice, fixes its view on any 
idea, considers it on all sides, and will not be 
called off by the ordinary solicitation of other 
ideas, it is that we call intention or study: sleep, 
without dreaming, is rest from all these: and 
dreaming itself is the having of ideas (whilst the 
outward senses are stopped, so that they receive 
not outward objects with their usual quickness) 
in the mind, not suggested by any external ob- 
jects, or known occasion; nor under any choice 
or conduct of the understanding at all: and 
whether that which we call ecstasy be not dream- 
ing with the eyes open, I leave to be examined. 

2. Other modes of thinking. These are some few 
instances of those various modes of thinking, 
which the mind may observe in itself, and so 
have as distinct ideas of as it hath of white and 
red, a square or a circle. I do not pretend to 
enumerate them all, nor to treat at large of this 
set of ideas, which are got from reflection: that 
would be to make a volume. It suffices to my 
present purpose to have shown here, by some 
few examples, of what sort these ideas are, and 
how the mind comes by them; especially since I 
shall have occasion hereafter 4 to treat more at 
large of reasoning, judging, volition, and knowledge, 
which are some of the most considerable oper- 
ations of the mind, and modes of thinking. 

3. The various degrees of attention in thinking. But 
perhaps it may not be an unpardonable digres- 
sion, nor wholly impertinent to our present de- 
sign, if we reflect here upon the different state of 
the mind in thinking, which those instances of 
attention, reverie, and dreaming, &c., before 
mentioned, naturally enough suggest. That there 
are ideas, some or other, always present in the 
mind of a waking man, every one's experience 
convinces him; though the mind employs itself 
about them with several degrees of attention. 
Sometimes the mind fixes itself with so much 
earnestness on the contemplation of some objects, 
that it turns their ideas on all sides; marks their 
relations and circumstances; and views every part 
so nicely and with such intention, that it shuts 
out all other thoughts, and takes no notice of the 
ordinary impressions made then on the senses, 
which at another season would produce very sen- 

*In Bk. IV. 



1 7 6 



JOHN LOCKE 



sible perceptions : at other times it barely observes 
the train of ideas that succeed in the understand- 
ing, without directing and pursuing any of them: 
and at other times it lets them pass almost quite 
unregarded, as faint shadows that make no im- 
pression. 

4. Hence it is probable that thinking is the action, 
not the essence of the soul. This difference of inten- 
tion, and remission of the mind in thinking, with 
a great variety of degrees between earnest study 
and very near minding nothing at all. every one, 
I think, has experimented in himself. Trace it a 
little further, and you find the mind in sleep re- 
tired as it were from the senses, and out of the 
reach of those motions made on the organs of 
sense, which at other times produce very vivid 
and sensible ideas. I need not, for this, instance 
in those who sleep out whole stormy nights, with- 
out hearing the thunder, or seeing the lightning, 
or feeling the shaking of the house, which are 
sensible enough to those who are waking. But in 
this retirement of the mind from the senses, it 
often retains a yet more loose and incoherent 
manner of thinking, which we call dreaming. 
And, last of all, sound sleep closes the scene quite, 
and puts an end to all appearances. This, I think 
almost every one has experience of in himself, 
and his own observation without difficulty leads 
him thus far. That which I would further con- 
clude from hence is, that since the mind can sen- 
sibly put on, at several times, several degrees of 
thinking, and be sometimes, even in a waking 
man, so remiss, as to have thoughts dim and ob- 
scure to that degree that they are very little re- 
moved from none at all; and at last, in the dark 
retirements of sound sleep, loses the sight per- 
fectly of all ideas whatsoever: since, I say, this is 
evidently so in matter of fact and constant ex- 
perience, I ask whether it be not probable, that 
thinking is the action and not the essence of the 
soul? Since the operations of agents will easily 
admit of intention and remission: but the es- 
sences of things are not conceived capable of any 
such variation. 1 But this by the by. 

Chap. XX. Of Modes of 
Pleasure and Pain 

i. Pleasure and pain, simple ideas. Amongst the 
simple ideas which we receive both from sensa- 
tion and reflection, fain and pleasure are two very 
considerable ones. 2 For as in the body there is 
sensation barely in itself, or accompanied with 
pain or pleasure, so the thought oar perception of 
the mind is simply so, or else accompanied also 

ch. i. | 10-19. 
ch. viL J-& 



BOOK II 

with pleasure or pain, delight or trouble, call it 
how you please. These, like other simple ideas, 
cannot be described, nor their names defined;, 
the way of knowing them is, as of the simple ideas 
of the senses, only by experience. For, to define 
them by the presence of good or evil, is no other- 
wise to make them known to us than by making 
us reflect on what we feel in ourselves, upon the 
several and various operations of good and evil 
upon our minds, as they are differently applied 
to or considered by us. 

2. Good and evil, what. Things then are good or 
evil, only in reference to pleasure or pain. That 
we call good, which is apt to cause or increase 
pleasure, or diminish pain in us; or else to pro- 
cure or preserve us the possession of any other 
good or absence of any evil. And, on the con- 
trary, we name that evil which is apt to produce 
or increase any pain, or diminish any pleasure 
in us: or else to procure us any evil, or deprive 
us of any good. By pleasure and pain, I must be 
understood to mean of body or mind, as they 
are commonly distinguished; though in truth 
they be only different constitutions of the mind, 
sometimes occasioned by disorder in the body, 
sometimes by thoughts of the mind. 

3. Our passions moved by good and evil. Pleasure 
and pain and that which causes them, good 
and evil, are the hinges on which our passions 
turn. And if we reflect on ourselves, and observe 
how these, under various considerations, oper- 
ate in us; what modifications or tempers of mind, 
what internal sensations (if I may so call them) 
they produce in us we may thence form to our- 
selves the ideas of our passions. 

4. Love. Thus any one reflecting upon the 
thought he has of the delight which any present 
or absent thing is apt to produce in him, has the 
idea we call love. For when a man declares in 
autumn when he is eating them, or in spring 
when there are none, that he loves grapes, it is 
no more but that the taste of grapes delights him: 
let an alteration of health or constitution destroy 
the delight of their taste, and he then can be said 
to love grapes no longer. 

5. Hatred. On the contrary, the thought of the 
pain which anything present or absent is apt to 
produce in us, is what we call hatred. Were it my 
business here to inquire any further than into 
the bare ideas of our passions, as they depend 
on different modifications of pleasure and pain, 
I should remark, that our love and hatred of in- 
animate insensible beings is commonly founded 
on that pleasure and pain which we receive from 
their use and application any way to our senses, 
though with their destruction. But hatred or love, 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP. XX 

to beings capable of happiness or misery, is often 
the uneasiness or delight which we find in our- 
selves, arising from a consideration of their very 
being or happiness. Thus the being and welfare 
of a man's children or friends, producing con- 
stant delight in him, he is said constantly to love 
them. But it sufficies to note, that our ideas of 
love and hatred are but the dispositions of the 
mind, in respect of pleasure and pain in gener- 
al, however caused in us. 

6. Desire. The uneasiness a man finds in him- 
self upon the absence of anything whose present 
enjoyment carries the idea of delight with it^ is 
that we call desire, which is greater or less, as 
that uneasiness is more or less vehement. Where, 
by the by, it may perhaps be of some use to re- 
mark, that the chief, if not only spur to human 
industry and action is uneasiness. For whatsoever 
good is proposed, if its absence carries no dis- 
pleasure or pain with it, if a man be easy 
and content without it, there is no desire of it, 
nor endeavour after it; there is no more but a 
bare velleity, the term used to signify the lowest 
degree of desire, and that which is next to none 
at all, when there is so little uneasiness in the ab- 
sence of anything, that it carries a mar* no fur- 
ther than some faint wishes for it, without any 
more effectual or vigorous use of the means to 
attain it Desire also is stopped or abated by the 
opinion of the impossibility or unattainableness 
of the good proposed, as far as the uneasiness is 
cured or allayed by thatconsideration.This might 
carry our thoughts tether, were it seasonable 
in this place. 

7. Joy is a delight of the mind, from the con- 
sideration of the present or assured approaching 
possession of a good; and we are then possessed 
of any good, when we have it so in our power 
that we can use it when we please. Thus a man 
almost starved has joy at the arrival of relief, 
even before he has the pleasure of using it: and 
a father, in whom the very well-being of his chil- 
dren causes delight, is always, as long as his chil- 
dren are in such a state, in the possession of that 
good; for he needs but to reflect on it, to have 
that pleasure. 

8. Sorrow is uneasiness in the mind, upon the 
thought of a good lost, which might have been 
enjoyed longer; or the sense of a present evil. 

9. Hope is that pleasure in the mind, which 
every one finds in himself, upon the thought of 
a probable future enjoyment of a thing which is 
apt to delight him. 1 

10. Fear is an uneasiness of the inind, upon 
the thought of future evil likely to befal us. 

1 Cf. Aristotle, Rhet&riG*'BSk. Li l. ' 



177 



1 1. Despair is the thought of the unattainable- 
ness of any good, which works differently in men's 
minds, sometimes producing uneasiness or pain, 
sometimes rest and indolency. 

1 2. Anger is uneasiness or discomposure of the 
mind, upon the receipt of any injury, with a pres- 
ent purpose of revenge. 

13. Envy is an uneasiness of the mind, caused 
by the consideration of a good we desire obtain- 
ed by one we think should not have had it be- 
fore us. 

14. What passions all men have. These two last, 
envy and anger, not being caused by pain and 
pleasure simply in themselves, but having in 
them some mixed considerations of ourselves and 
others, are not therefore to be found in all men, 
because those other parts, of valuing their mer- 
its, or intending revenge, is wanting in them. 
But all the rest, terminating purely in pain and 
pleasure, are, I think, to be found in all men. 
For we love, desire, rejoice, and hope, only in 
respect of pleasure; we hate, fear, and grieve, 
only in respect of pain ultimately. In fine, all 
these passions are moved by things, only as they 
appear to be the causes of pleasure and pain, or 
to have pleasure or pain some way or other an- 
nexed to them. Thus we extend our hatred usu- 
ally to the subject (at least, if a sensible or vol- 
untary agent) which has produced pain in us; 
because the fear it leaves is a constant pain: but 
we do not so constantly love what has done us 
good; because pleasure operates not so strongly 
on us as pain, and because we are not so ready 
to have hope it will do so again. But this by the 
by. 

15. Pleasure and pain, what. By pleasure and 
pain, delight and uneasiness, I must all along be 
understood (as I have above intimated) to mean 
not only bodily pain and pleasure, but whatso- 
ever delight or uneasiness is felt by us, whether 
arising from any grateful or unacceptable sen- 
sation or reflection. 

1 6. Removal or lessening of either, It is further to 
be considered, that, in reference to the passions, 
the removal or lessening of a pain is considered, 
and operates, as a pleasure: and the loss or di- 
minishing of a pleasure, as a pain. 

1 7. Shame. The passions too have most of them, 
in most persons, operations on the body, and 
cause various changes in it; which not being al- 
ways sensible, do not make a necessary part of 
the idea of each passion. For shame y which is an 
uneasiness of the mind upon the thought of hav- 
ing done something which is indecent, or will 
lessen the valued esteem which others have for 
us, has not always blushing accompanying it 



178 



JOHN LOCKE 



1 8. These instances to show how our ideas of the 
passions are got from sensation and reflection. I would 
not be mistaken here, as if I meant this as a Dis- 
course of the Passions; they are many more than 
those I have here named: and those I have taken 
notice of would each of them require a much 
larger and more accurate discourse. I have only 
mentioned these here, as so many instances of 
modes of pleasure and pain resulting in our minds 
from various considerations of good and evil. I 
might perhaps have instanced in other modes of 
pleasure and pain, more simple than these; as 
the pain of hunger and thirst, and the pleasure 
of eating and drinking to remove them: the pain 
of teeth set on edge; the pleasure of music; pain 
from captious uninstructive wrangling, and the 
pleasure of rational conversation with a friend, 
or of well-directed study in the search and dis- 
covery of truth. But the passions being of much 
more concernment to us, I rather made choice 
to instance in them, and show how the ideas we 
have of them are derived from sensation or re- 
flection. 

Chap. XXL Of Power 

i . This idea how got. The mind being every day 
informed, by the senses, of the alteration of those 
simple ideas it observes in things without; and 
taking notice how one comes to an end, and 
ceases to be, and another begins to exist which 
was not before; reflecting also on what passes 
within itself, and observing a constant change 
of its ideas, sometimes by the impression of out- 
ward objects on the senses, and sometimes by 
the determination of its own choice; and con- 
cluding from what it has so constantly observed 
to have been, that the like changes will for the 
future be made in the same things, by like 
agents, and by the like ways, considers in one 
thing the possibility of having any of its simple 
ideas changed, and in another the possibility of 
making that change; and so comes by that idea 
which we call power. - 1 Thus we say, Fire has a 
power to melt gold, Le. to destroy the consist- 
ency of its insensible parts, and consequently its 
hardness, and make it fluid ; and gold has a power 
to be melted; that the sun has a power to blanch 
wax, and wax a power to be blanched by the sun, 
whereby the yellowness is destroyed, and white- 
ness made to exist in its room. In which, and the 
like cases, the power we consider is in reference 
to the change of perceivable ideas. For we can- 
not observe any alteration to be made in, or op- 
eration upon anything, but by the observable 

1 Gf. ch. vii. 8, ch. xxvi. i ; Hume, Enquiry, sect, 
vii., p. 472, fia. i f below; ch. xxii. 1 1; ch. xxiii. 



BOOK II 

change of its sensible ideas; nor conceive any al- 
teration to be made, but by conceiving a change 
of some of its ideas. 

2. Power, active and passive. Power thus consid- 
ered is two-fold, viz. as able to make, or able to 
receive any change. The one may be called ac- 
tive, and the other passive power. Whether mat- 
ter be not wholly destitute of active power, 2 as 
its author, God, is truly above all passive pow- 
er; and whether the intermediate state of cre- 
ated spirits be not that alone which is capable of 
both active and passive power, may be worth 
consideration. I shall not now enter into that 
inquiry, my present business being not to search 
into the original of power, but how we come by 
the idea of it. 3 But since active powers make so 
great a part of our complex ideas of natural sub- 
stances, (as we shall see hereafter,) 4 and I men- 
tion them as such, according to common appre- 
hension; yet they being not, perhaps, so truly 
active powers as our hasty thoughts are apt to 
represent them, I judge it not amiss, by this in- 
timation, to direct our minds to the considera- 
tion of God and spirits, for the clearest idea of 
active power. 

3. Power includes relation. I confess power in- 
cludes in it some kind of relation, (a relation to 
action or change,) as indeed which of our ideas, 
of what kind soever, when attentively consid- 
ered, does not? For, our ideas of extension, dur- 
ation, and number, do they not all contain in 
them a secret relation of the parts? Figure and 
motion have something relative in them much 
more visibly. And sensible qualities, as colours 
and smells, &c., what are they but the powers 
of different bodies, in relation to our perception, 
&c.? And, if considered in the things themselves, 
do they not depend on the bulk, figure, texture, 
and motion of the parts? 6 All which include some 
kind of relation in them. Our idea therefore of 
power, I think, may well have a place amongst 
other simple ideas, and be considered as one of 
them; being one of those that make a principal 
ingredient in our complex ideas of substances, 
as we shall hereafter have occasion to observe. 6 

4. The clearest idea of active power had from spirit. 
We are abundantly furnished with the idea of 
passive power by almost all sorts of sensible things. 
In most of them we cannot avoid observing their 

2 Cf. Bk. II. ch. xiii. 18, Chh. xxiii, xxvii. 2; 
Bk. IV. chh. ix, x, xi; also Aristotle, Metaphysics, 
Bk. viii. 

8 Hume, Treatise, Bk. I. pt. iii. sect. 2. 

*Bk. IL ch. xxiii. 7-11; also ch. viii. 23- 
26. 

5 Ch. viii. 10, 13, 14. 

* Ch. xxiii. 8. 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP. XXI 

sensible qualities, nay, their very substances, to 
be in a continual flux. And therefore with rea- 
son we look on them as liable still to the same 
change. Nor have we of active power (which is 
the more proper signification of the word pow- 
er) fewer instances. Since whatever change is ob- 
served, the mind must collect a power somewhere 
able to make that change, as well as a possibility 
in the thing itself to receive it. But yet, if we will 
consider it attentively, bodies, by our senses, do 
not afford us so clear and distinct an idea of ac- 
tive power, as we have from reflection on the op- 
erations of our minds. For all power relating to 
action, and there being but two sorts of action 
whereof we have an idea, viz. thinking and mo- 
tion, let us consider whence we have the clearest 
ideas of the powers which produce these actions, 
(i) Of thinking, body affords us no idea at all; 
it is only from reflection that we have that. (2) 
Neither have we from body any idea of the be- 
ginning of motion. A body at rest affords us no 
idea of any active power to move; and when it 
is set in motion itself, that motion is rather a 
passion than an action in it For, when the ball 
obeys the motion of a billiard-stick, it is not any 
action of the ball, but bare passion. Also when 
by impulse it sets another ball in motion that 
lay in its way, it only communicates the motion 
it had received from another, and loses in itself 
so much as the other received: which gives us 
but a very obscure idea of an active power of mov- 
ing in body, whilst we observe it only to transfer, 
but not produce any motion. For it is but a very 
obscure idea of power which reaches not the 
production of the action, but the continuation 
of the passion. For so is motion in a body im- 
pelled by another; the continuation of the alter- 
ation made in it from rest to motion being little 
more an action, than the continuation of the al- 
teration of its figure by the same blow is an ac- 
tion. The idea of the beginning of motion we have 
only from reflection on what passes in ourselves; 
where we find by experience, that, barely by 
willing it, barely by a thought of the mind, we 
can move the parts of our bodies, which were be- 
fore at rest. So that it seems to me, we have, 
from the observation of the operation of bodies 
by our senses, but a very imperfect obscure idea 
of active power; since they afford us not any idea 
in themselves of the power to begin any action, 
either motion or thought. But if, from the im- 
pulse bodies are observed to make one upon an- 
other, any one thinks he has a clear idea of pow- 
er, it serves as well to my purpose; sensation be- 
ing one of those ways whereby the mind comes 
by its ideas: only I thought it worth while to 



179 



consider here, by the way, whether the mind 
doth not receive its idea of active power clearer 
from reflection on its own operations, than it 
doth from any external sensation. 

5. Will and understanding two powers in mind or 
spirit. This, at least, I think evident, That we 
find in ourselves a power to begin or forbear, 
continue or end several actions of our minds, 
and motions of our bodies, barely by a thought 
or preference of the mind ordering, or as it were 
commanding, the doing or not doing such or 
such a particular action. This power which the 
mind has thus to order the consideration of any 
idea, or the forbearing to consider it; or to pre- 
fer the motion of any part of the body to its rest, 
and vice versd^ in any particular instance, is that 
which we call the Will. The actual exercise of 
that power, by directing any particular action, 
or its forbearance, is that which we call volition 
or willing. The forbearance of that action, con- 
sequent to.such order or command of the mind, 
is called voluntary. And whatsoever action is per- 
formed without such a thought of the mind, is 
called involuntary. The power of perception is 
that which we call the Understanding. Percep- 
tion, which we make the act of the understand- 
ing, is of three sorts: i . The perception of ideas 
in our minds. 2. The perception of the significa- 
tion of signs. 3. The perception of the connexion 
or repugnancy, agreement or disagreement, that 
there is between any of our ideas. All these are 
attributed to the understanding, or perceptive 
power, though it be the two latter only that use 
allows us to say we understand. 1 

6. Faculties^ not real beings. These powers of the 
mind, viz. of perceiving, and of preferring, are 
usually called by another name. And the ordi- 
nary way of speaking is, that the understanding 
and will are two faculties of the mind; a word 
proper enough, if it be used, as all words should 
be, so as not to breed any confusion in men's 
thoughts, by being supposed (as I suspect it has 
been) to stand for some real beings in the soul 
that performed those actions of understanding 
and volition. For when we say the will is the com- 
manding and superior faculty of the soul; that 
it is or is not free; that it determines the inferior 
faculties; that it follows the dictates of the un- 
derstanding, &c., though these and the like ex- 
pressions, by those that carefully attend to their 
own ideas, and conduct their thoughts more by 
the evidence of things than the sound of words, 
may be understood in a clear and distinct sense 
yet I suspect, I say, that this way of speaking 
of faculties has misled many into a confused no- 

vi 1 2. 



i8o 



JOHN LOCKE 



tion of so many distinct agents in us, which had 
their several provinces and authorities, and did 
command, obey, and perform several actions, 
as so many distinct beings; which has been no 
small occasion of wrangling, obscurity, and un- 
certainty, in questions relating to them. 

7. Whence the ideas of liberty and necessity. Every 
one, I think, finds in himself a power to begin or 
forbear, continue or put an end to several ac- 
tions in himself. From the consideration of the 
extent of this power of the mind over the actions 
of the man, which everyone finds in himself, a- 
rise the ideas of liberty and necessity. 

8. Liberty, what. All the actions that we have 
any idea of reducing themselves, as has been 
said, to these two, viz. thinking and motion; so 
far as a man has power to think or not to think, to 
move or not to move, according to the prefer- 
ence or direction of his own mind, so far is a man 
free. Wherever any performance or forbearance 
are not equally in a man's power; wherever do- 
ing or not doing will not equally/0//0&> upon the 
preference of his mind directing it, there he is 
not free, though perhaps the action may be vol- 
untary. So that the idea of liberty is, the idea of 
a power in any agent to do or forbear any par- 
ticular action, according to the determination 
or thought of the mind, whereby either of them 
is preferred to the other: where either of them 
is not in the power of the agent to be produced 
by him according to his volition, there he is not 
at liberty; that agent is under necessity. So that 
liberty cannot be where there is no thought, no 
volition, no will; but there may be thought, there 
may be will, there may be volition, where there 
is no liberty. 1 A little consideration of an obvi- 
ous instance or two may make this clear. 

9. Supposes understanding and will. A tennis-ball, 
whether in motion by the stroke of a racket, or 
lying still at rest, is not by any one taken to be a 
free agent. If we inquire into the reason, we shall 
find it is because we conceive not a tennis-ball 
to think, and consequently not to have any vo- 
lition, or preference of motion to rest, or vice versa; 
and therefore has not liberty, is not a free agent; 
but all its both motion and rest come under our 
idea of necessary, and are so called. Likewise a 
man falling into the water, (a bridge breaking 
under him), has not herein liberty, is not a free 
agent. For though he has volition, though he 
prefers his not falling to falling; yet the forbear- 
ance of that motion not being in his power, the 
stop or cessation of that motion follows not up- 
on his volition; and therefore therein he is not 
free. So a man striking himself, or his friend, by 

1 C Locke's letter to Molyaeux, 30 Jan., 1693. 



BOOK n 

a convulsive motion of his arm, which it is not 
in his power, by volition or the direction of his 
mind, to stop or forbear, nobody thinks he has 
in this liberty; every one pities him, as acting by 
necessity and constraint. 

10. Belongs not to volition. Again: suppose a man 
be carried, whilst fast asleep, into a room where 
is a person he longs to see and speak with; and 
be there locked fast in, beyond his power to get 
out: he awakes, and is glad to find himself in so 
desirable company, which he stays willingly in, 
i.e. prefers his stay to going away. I ask, is not 
this stay voluntary? I think nobody will doubt 
it: and yet, being locked fast in, it is evident he 
is not at liberty not to stay, he has not freedom 
to be gone. So that liberty is not an idea belong- 
ing to volition, or preferring; but to the person 
having the power of doing, or forbearing to do, 
according as the mind shall choose or direct. Our 
idea of liberty reaches as far as that power, and 
no farther. For wherever restraint comes to check 
that power, or compulsion takes away that in- 
differency of ability to act, or to forbear acting, 
there liberty, and our notion of it, presently 
ceases. 

n. Voluntary opposed to involuntary, not to neces- 
sary. We have instances enough, and often more 
than enough, in our own bodies. A man's heart 
beats, and the blood circulates, which it is not 
in his power by any thought or volition to stop; 
and therefore in respect of these motions, where 
rest depends not on his choice, nor would follow 
the determination of his mind, if it should prefer 
it, he is not a free agent. Convulsive motions agi- 
tate his legs, so that though he wills it ever so 
much, he cannot by any power of his mind stop 
their motion, (as in that odd disease called cho- 
rea sancti viti), but he is perpetually dancing; he 
is not at liberty in this action, but under as much 
necessity of moving, as a stone that falls, or a 
tennis-ball struck with a racket. On the other 
side, a palsy or the stocks hinder his legs from 
obeying the determination of his mind, if it would 
thereby transfer his body to another place. In 
all these there is want of freedom; though the 
sitting still, even of a paralytic, whilst he prefers 
it to a removal, is truly voluntary. Voluntary, 
then, is not opposed to necessary, but to invol- 
untary. For a man may prefer what he can do, 
to what he cannot do; the state ke is in, to its 
absence or change; though necessity has made 
it in itself unalterable. 

12. Liberty, what. As it is in the motions of the 
body, so it is in the thoughts of our minds: where 
any one is such, that we have power to take it 
up, or lay it by, according to the preference bf 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP. XXI 

the mind, there we are at liberty. A waking man, 
being under the necessity of having some ideas 
constantly in his mind, is not at liberty to think 
or not to think; no more than he is at liberty, 
whether his body shall touch any other or no: 
but whether he will remove his contemplation 
from one idea to another is many times in his 
choice; and then he is, in respect of his ideas, as 
much at liberty as he is in respect of bodies he 
rests on; he can at pleasure remove himself from 
one to another. But yet some ideas to the mind, 
like some motions to the body, are such as in cer- 
tain circumstances it cannot avoid, nor obtain 
their absence by the utmost effort it can use. A 
man on the rack is not at liberty to lay by the 
idea of pain, and divert himself with other con- 
templations: and sometimes a boisterous passion 
hurries our thoughts, as a hurricane does our 
bodies, without leaving us the liberty of think- 
ing on other things, which we would rather 
choose. But as soon as the mind regains the pow- 
er to stop or continue, begin or forbear, any of 
these motions of the body without, or thoughts 
within, according as it thinks fit to prefer either 
to the other, we then consider the man as a free 
agent again. 

1 3. Necessity, what. Wherever thought is whol- 
ly wanting, or the power to act or forbear ac- 
cording to the direction of thought, there neces- 
sity takes place, This, in an agent capable of vo- 
lition, when the beginning or continuation of 
any action is contrary to that preference of his 
mind, is called compulsion; when the hindering 
or stopping any action is contrary to his voli- 
tion, it is called restraint. Agents that have no 
thought, no volition at all, are in everything nec- 
essary agents. 

14. Liberty belongs not to the will. If this be so, 
(as I imagine it is,) I leave it to be considered, 
whether it may not help to put an end to that 
long agitated, and, I think, unreasonable, be- 
cause unintelligible question, viz. Whether man's 
will be free or no? For if I mistake not, it follows 
from what I have said, that the question itself is 
altogether improper; and it is as insignificant to 
ask whether man's will be free, as to ask whether 
his sleep be swift, or liis virtue square: liberty 
being as little applicable to the will, as swiftness 
of motion is to sleep, or squareness to virtue. Ev- 
ery one would laugh, at the absurdity of such a 
question as either of these; because it is obvious 
that the modifications of motion belong not to 
sleep, nor the diffepettde of figure to virtue; and 
when one well considers it, I think fee ^wM as 
plainly perceive that liberty, vjrhicfa is but a pow- 
er, bekmgs only to dgimfr, and cannot be an at* 



181 



tribute or modification of the will, which is also 
but a power. 

15. Volition. Such is the difficulty of explain- 
ing and giving clear notions of internal actions 
by sounds, that I must here warn my reader, 
that ordering, directing, choosing, preferring, &c., 
which I have made use of, will not distinctly 
enough express volition, unless he will reflect on 
what he himself does when he wills. For exam- 
ple, preferring, which seems perhaps best to ex- 
press the act of volition, does it not precisely. 
For though a man would prefer flying to walk- 
ing, yet who can say he ever wills it? Volition, it 
is plain, is an act of the mind knowingly exert- 
ing that dominion it takes itself to have over any 
part of the man, by employing it in,. or with- 
holding it from, any particular action. And what 
is the will, but the faculty to do this? And is that 
faculty anything more in effect than a power; 
the power of the mind to determine its thought, 
to the producing, continuing, or stopping any 
action, as far as it depends on us? For can it be 
denied that whatever agent has a power to think 
on its own actions, and to prefer their doing or 
omission either to other, has that faculty called 
will? Will, then, is nothing but such a power. 
Liberty^ on the other side, is the power a man has 
to do or forbear doing any particular action ac- 
cording as its doing or forbearance has the actual 
preference in the mind; which is the same thing 
as to say, according as he himself wills it. 

1 6. Powers, belonging to agents. It is plain then 
that the will is nothing but one power or ability, 
and freedom another power or ability so that, to 
ask, whether the will has freedom, is to ask 
whether one power has another power, one 
ability another ability; a question at first sight 
too grossly absurd to make a dispute, or need 
an answer. For, who is it that sees not that pow- 
ers belong only to agents, and are attributes on- 
ly of substances, and not of powers themselves? 
So that this way of pulting the question (viz. 
whether the will be free) is in effect to askj whe- 
ther the will be a substance, an agent, or at least 
to suppose it, since freedom ran properly be at- 
tributed to nothing else. If freedom can with 
any propriety of speech be applied to power, it 
may be attributed to the power that is in a man 
to produce, or forbear producing, motion in parts 
of his body, by choice or preference; which is 
that which denominates him free, and is freedom 
itself. But if any one should ask, whether free- 
dom were free, he would be suspected not to un- 
derstand well what he said; and he would be 
thought to deserve Midas* s ears, who, knowing 
that rich was a denominatioB for the possession 



1 82 



JOHN LOCKE 



of riches, should demand whether riches them- 
selves were rich. 

1 7. How the will t instead of the man, is called free. 
However, the name/ao^, which men have giv- 
en to this power called the will, and whereby 
they have been led into a way of talking of the 
will as acting, may, by an appropriation that 
disguises its true sense, serve a little to palliate 
the absurdity; yet the will, in truth, signifies noth- 
ing but a power or ability to prefer or choose: 
and when the will, under the name of a faculty, 
is considered as it is, barely as an ability to do 
something, the absurdity in saying it is free, or 
not free, will easily discover itself. For, if it be 
reasonable to suppose and tali: of faculties as dis- 
tinct beings that can act, (as we do, when we 
say the will orders, and the will is free,) it is fit 
that we should make a speaking faculty, and a 
walking faculty, and a dancing faculty, by which 
these actions are produced, which are but sev- 
eral modes of motion; as well as we make the 
will and understanding to be faculties, by which 
the actions of choosing and perceiving are pro- 
duced, which are but several modes of thinking. 
And we may as properly say that it is the sing- 
ing faculty sings, and the dancing faculty dances, 
as that the will chooses, or that the understand- 
ing conceives; or, as is usual, that the will directs 
the understanding, or the understanding obeys 
or obeys not the will: it being altogether as prop- 
er and intelligible to say that the power of speak- 
ing directs the power of singing, or the power of 
singing obeys or disobeys the power of speaking. 

1 8. This way of talking causes confusion of thought. 
This way of talking, nevertheless, has prevailed, 
and, as I guess, produced great confusion. For 
these being all different powers in the mind, or 
in the man* to do several actions, he exerts them 
as he thinks fit: but the power to do one action 
is not operated on by the power of doing another 
action. For the power of thinking operates not 
on the power of choosing, nor the power of choos- 
ing on the power of tMnking; no more than 
the power of dancing operates on the power of 
singing, or the power of singing on the power 
of dancing, as any one who reflects on it will 
easily perceive. And yet this is it which we say 
when we thus speak, that the will operates on 
the understanding, or the understanding on 
the will, 

19. Powers are relations, not agents. I grant, that 
this or that actual thought may be the occasion 
of volition, or exercising the power a man has to 
choose; or the actual choice of the mind, the 
cause of actual thinking on flfr.fa or that thing; as 
the actual singing of such a tame may be the 



BOOK n 

cause of dancing such a dance, and the actual 
dancing of such a dance the occasion of singing 
such a tune. But in all these it is not one power 
that operates on another: but it is the mind that 
operates, and exerts these powers; it is the man 
that does the action; it is the agent that has pow- 
er, or is able to do. For powers are relations, not 
agents: and that which has the power or not the 
power to operate, is that alone which is or is not 
free, and not the power itself. For freedom, or 
not freedom, can belong to nothing but what 
has or has not a power to act. 

20. Liberty belongs not to the wilL The attribut- 
ing to faculties that which belonged not to them, 
has given occasion to this way of talking: but the 
introducing hi to discourses concerning the mind, 
with the name of faculties, a notion of their oper- 
ating, has, I suppose, aslittle advanced our knowl- . 
edge in that part of ourselves, as the great use 
and mention of the like invention of faculties, in 
the operations of the body, has helped us in the 
knowledge of physic. Not that I deny there are 
faculties, both in the body and mind: they both 
of them have their powers of operating, else nei- 
ther the one nor the other could operate. For 
nothing can operate that is not able to operate; 
and that is not able to operate that has no power 
to operate. Nor do I deny that those words, and 
the like, are to have their place in the common 
use of languages that have made them current. 
It looks like too much affectation wholly to lay 
them by: and philosophy itself, though it likes 
not a gaudy dress, yet, when it appears in pub- 
lic, must have so much complacency as to be 
clothed in the ordinary fashion and language of 
the country, so far as it can consist with truth 
and perspicuity. But the fault has been, that 
faculties have been spoken of and represented as 
so many distinct agents. For, it being asked, what 
it was that digested the meat in our stomachs? it 
was a ready and very satisfactory answer to say, 
that it was the digestive faculty. What was it that 
made anything come out of the body? the expul- 
sive faculty. What moved? the motive faculty . And 
so in the mind, the intellectual faculty^ or the un- 
derstanding, understood; and the elective faculty, 
or the will, willed or commanded. This is, in 
short, to say, that the ability to digest, digested; 
and the ability to move, moved; and the ability 
to understand, understood. For faculty, ability, 
and power, I think, are but different names of 
the same things: which ways of speaking, when 
put into more intelligible words, will, I think, 
amount to thus much; That digestion is per- 
formed by something that is able to digest, mo- 
tion by something able to move, and understand- 



CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING 



CHAP. XXI 

ing by something able to understand. And, in 
truth, it would be very strange if it should be 
otherwise; as strange as it would be for a man to 
be free without being able to be free. 1 

21. But to the agent, or man. To return, then, to 
the inquiry about liberty, I think the question is 
not proper, whether the will be free, but whether a 
man be free. Thus, I think. 

First, That so far as any one can, by the direc- 
tion or choice of his mind, preferring the exist- 
ence of any action to the non-existence of that 
action, and vice versd, make it to exist or not ex- 
ist, so far he is free. For if I can, by a thought di- 
recting the motion of my finger, make it move 
when it was at rest, or vice versd, it is evident, that 
in respect of that I am free: and if I can, by a like 
thought of my mind, preferring one to the other, 
produce either words or silence, I am at liberty 
to speak or hold my peace: and as far as this 
power reaches, of acting or not acting, by the 
determination of his own thought preferring ei- 
ther, so far is a man free. For how can we think 
any one freer, than to have the power to do what 
he will? And so far as any one can, by preferring 
any action to its not being, or rest to any action, 
produce that action or rest, so far can he do what 
he will. For such a preferring of action to its ab- 
sence, is the willing of it: and we can scarce tell 
how to imagine any being freer, than to be able 
to do what he wills. So that in respect of actions 
within the reach of such a power in him, a man 
seems as free as it is possible for freedom to make 
him. 

22. In respect of willing, a man is not free. But the 
inquisitive mind of man, willing to shift off from 
himself, as far as he can, all thoughts of guilt, 
though it be by putting himself into a worse state 
than that of fatal necessity, is not content with 
this: freedom, unless it reaches further than this, 
will not serve the turn: and it passes for a good 
plea, that a man is not free at all, if he be not as 
free to will as he is to act what he wills. Concerning 
a man's liberty, there yet, therefore, is raised this 
further question, Whether a man be free to will? 
Which I think is what is meant, when it is dis- 
puted whether the will be free. And as to that I 
imagine. 

23. How a ma